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Letters to My Children

Leaving an Inheritance in the Lord
80: How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

80: How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

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“Follow Me, and I Will Make You… Whatever I Want”

In the Gospels, we encounter a radical figure who issues a bold invitation to those He calls unto Himself: “Follow Me.”  These words, spoken by Jesus, are not merely a suggestion but a summons, a mandate to leave life as we have always known it and embark on a journey that has no end— at least on this side of heaven.  His invitation is to die to self, to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to imitate Him in all aspects of life.

Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”  But what does it really mean to follow Jesus, especially in the context of the 21st-century woke Christian culture we find ourselves in?  How can we be faithful disciples of our Lord?


What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

The essence of Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” is about more than just physically moving from where you are to where He is.  It’s an invitation to a new way of life.  It’s about leaving behind old priorities and identities (like nets or tax booths in the Gospels) and embracing a new identity rooted in faith and obedience to Christ.  And this call is marked by a willingness to let go of personal ambitions and possessions, or to take up one’s cross (Matt. 16:24), and to enter a life of service and mission with Him, by following Him.  It’s about embracing all that Christ offers: His teachings, His lifestyle, His ambition, His mission, His sacrifice, and the purpose of His life.

Ok, got that.

I’ve heard sermons about giving all to Christ for as long as I can remember.  But ‌every time I try to truly follow Him wholeheartedly, I seem to fail.  Sometimes miserably.  There has to be something I’m missing— maybe some key ingredient I have somehow overlooked.

And, to be honest, there is.


The Importance of Hearing His Voice When He Speaks

But there is also one vital aspect of following Jesus that is often neglected in our preaching and church practices— and that is being able, or acquiring the ability, to hear His voice when He speaks to you.  Otherwise, how can you follow Him?  For without His direction, you’re basically flying blind.  I mean, how can you know what He wants you to do?  How can He encourage you, instruct you, or even rebuke you?  And how can you have fellowship with Him or grow in the likeness of Him if you can’t hear Him when He speaks?

Remember, one vital and essential key to following Jesus is to speak to Him and have Him speak back to you.  This is the essence of a relationship with the Lord.  All relationships, with God or with someone else, are built on two-way communication and not a single monologue from only one partner.  And without a relationship… well, we’re just talking about religion.  And nobody wants religion.


Some FAQs About Hearing His Voice

So let me ask you, are you a follower of Jesus?  Do you hear His voice when He speaks to you?  And if you’re not sure, let me answer just a few questions you may have.

Q:  How do I know if it’s God speaking to me?
A:  God’s voice will never contradict Scripture.  Never.  And His voice brings peace and clarity in confusing situations, often challenges us to grow spiritually, and is always consistent with His character of love.  Plus, and I know this may sound mystical, but when God speaks, you will recognize His voice like His sheep do their Shepherd (John 10:3-4).  Or, to put it another way, there is no way you cannot hear His voice if you belong to Him as one of His sheep.  Read the chapter yourself.

Q:  What if I don’t hear anything?
A:  God can even speak in silence.  These times of silence may be opportunities for you to grow in trust and faith in Him, or in what He last spoke to you.  So keep listening, keep praying, and remain open.  Remember, God can speak to you any way He chooses.  He can even guide you with just the look in His eye (Psalm 32:8).  Sometimes, God’s silence is preparing you for what’s next— and that’s a good thing.  A really good thing.

Q:  Can God speak through other means, like circumstances or other people?
A:  Absolutely.  See above.  God can speak to you in any way He chooses.  It’s one of the prerogatives of being God.  He can communicate with us in any number of ways, including through other people, circumstances, dreams and visions, a bolt of lightning, a blinding light on the way to Damascus, while riding a donkey, and even through the quiet nudging of our spirits.  But it is essential that you discern these extra-Biblical messages of God in light of Scripture and prayer.

Q:  How can I be sure it’s really Jesus speaking to me and not just my own thoughts?
A:  Remember, learning to discern the voice of Jesus takes time and practice.  The more we immerse ourselves in Scripture and spend time with Him in prayer, the more familiar we become with how God speaks and what His voice sounds like.  Practice makes perfect, especially when discerning the difference between our thoughts and the voice of the Lord.  Jesus’ voice will always align with His Word and character.  So, if you’re unsure, seek the counsel of mature believers and wait until you know for certain it is the Lord speaking before acting on what you have heard.

Q:  Do I need to hear Jesus’ voice audibly to follow Him?
A:  Absolutely not.  Hearing Jesus speak audibly is not a requirement for following Him.  Throughout church history, countless believers have followed Christ faithfully without ever hearing His audible voice.  Jesus speaks in many ways, and how He chooses to communicate with you is sufficient.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens, and He does what He pleases”— including how He chooses to speak to you.  So don’t put Him in a box of your own expectations.

Q:  What should I do when following Jesus feels difficult or costly?
A:  Following Jesus is not always easy, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  When the path is difficult (and it usually is), you simply must cling to His promises, lean on His strength, and keep your eyes fixed on the eternal joy set before you (Heb. 12:1-2).  And remember, the heroes in Hebrews 11 all faced trials and difficulties, far more difficult than we usually face, yet they remained steadfast, resolute, and unmovable.  How?  Because they understood “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  So when following Jesus seems scary, just follow Him closer.  Believe me, it works every time.


Reflection

Wherever you are on the journey of learning how to hear His voice, remember that following Jesus is a lifelong process.  We will never arrive, at least not on this side of eternity.  But day by day, step by step, as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, He is faithful to lead us, to mold us, and to use us for His purposes and His glory.

May we continually hear and heed the Savior’s call: “Follow Me.”


The Higher Christian Life

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79:  Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

79: Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

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Challenging the Status Quo

We live in a world where the term “radical” often evokes images of extremism and division and has developed a rather nasty reputation in our culture since the ’60s.  Therefore, it may come as a surprise that at the very heart of Christian discipleship lies a call to a radically different way of life.  This radical lifestyle is not about taking up arms or shouting louder than the voices of opposition.  Instead, it’s about embracing a radical love, a radical commitment, radical obedience and sacrifice, and a radical transformation that only comes from fully embracing the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself— who was the greatest radical who ever lived.

That’s right.  Let that thought sink in for a moment.


What is a Radical, and Why Should I Care?

But first, to set the stage, let’s define what the word “radical” means.  According to Webster, “radical” is ‌defined as “something (or someone) new and different in contrast to what is traditional or ordinary.”  In other words, being “radical” is a relative term based on a comparison with what society deems common or ordinary or what we refer to as the “status quo.”  This means it is the ordinary and traditional aspects of a society that determine, right or wrong, if something (teachings or ideas) or someone (individual or actions) is radical or revolutionary.  Consider that last statement carefully.  Note where the power to make the determination lies (mainstream opinion and not actual truth).  Do you see the problem?

When a culture refers to individuals or their beliefs and practices as radical, it means they are considered extreme, controversial, and even dangerous to the mainstream.  And since they could harm the status quo by threatening change or something even more frightening, accountability— those accused of being radical are often marginalized, excluded, punished, canceled, and eventually eliminated for the good of the whole, or at least for the good of the power elites who govern the whole.


But What About Jesus?

This compels us to address the question nobody wants to ask.  Namely, is it OK, maybe even expected, for the Christian life to be viewed as radical by our lost and dying culture that rejects the claims and teachings of Christ?  And if so, are our Christian ideas and actions supposed to challenge the status quo of our society (both secular and sacred) at this point in history?  Or do we just blend into the woodwork and hope the culture will leave us alone to do the religious things we want?  Which is it?  You can’t have it both ways.  But we all know that.

To answer this question, we need only look at Jesus’ teachings and how the mainstream reacted to His life.  Were He and His message considered radical and revolutionary by the Jewish establishment of His time?  Was He viewed as a threat, a danger to the profitable inner workings of their religious complex?  How did they view, for example, His cleaning out the corruption in the Temple by overturning the tables of the money changers (Matt. 21:12-13)?  How did they respond when He called them out as hypocrites and encouraged the people to follow God and not man-made traditions (Matt. 23)?  And what did they finally do to silence His voice?  Exactly.

It would appear, from any honest assessment, that the powers-to-be viewed Jesus as a radical and revolutionary and, as such, had Him put to death.  And we are called to follow in His footsteps, to be the light of the world (which exposes darkness, John 3:19) and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).  Remember?


We Follow a Risen Savior (Who Was a Radical)

Consider a brief overview of the radical life and teachings of our Lord.  Let’s begin with some of His radical actions:

•   Eating with Sinners and Tax Collectors – Mark 2
•   Touching and Healing Lepers – Matthew 8
•   Forgiving Sins – Mark 2
•   Challenging the Sabbath Traditions – Mark 2
•   Cleansing the Temple – Matthew 21
•   Teaching and Practicing Humility – Mark 10
•   Welcoming Children – Mark 10
•   Interacting with Samaritans – John 4
•   Affirming the Value of the Poor – Luke 6
•   Healing on the Sabbath – Luke 13
•   Associating with Women – Luke 8
•   Criticizing Religious Hypocrisy – Matthew 23
•   The First Shall Be Last – Matthew 20
•   Washing His Disciples’ Feet – John 13
•   Ministering to Gentiles – Matthew 8 and 15
•   Teaching in Parables – Matthew 13
•   Proclaiming Spirit Over Letter of the Law – Mark 2
•   Challenging Social Norms – Luke 15

And now, let’s look at His revolutionary teachings.  We’ll begin with the Sermon on the Mount.

•   The Definition of Being Blessed – Matthew 5:3-12
•   Higher Standard of Righteousness – Matthew 5:20
•   Deeper Meaning of Adultery – Matthew 5:27-28
•   The Permanence of Marriage – Matthew 5:31-32
•   Turn the Other Cheek – Matthew 5:38-39
•   Give to Everyone Who Asks – Matthew 5:42
•   Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
•   How to Pray (Kingdom Come) – Matthew 6:9-13
•   Do Not Accumulate Treasures – Matthew 6:19-21
•   You Cannot Serve God and Money – Matthew 6:24
•   Seek First the Kingdom of God – Matthew 6:33
•   Do Not Worry, But Trust God – Matthew 6:25-34
•   Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-2
•   Love Others Like Yourself – Matthew 7:12
•   Wide Path and Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14
•   Words and Fruits – Matthew 7:15-20
•   Saying and Doing – Matthew 7:21-23
•   Build on the Eternal, not Temporal – Matthew 7:24-27

And we’ll throw a few more in for good measure.

•   The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
•    The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:1-32
•    The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
•    The Greatest in the Kingdom – Matthew 18:1-4
•    Forgive Seventy Times Seven – Matthew 18:21-22
•    The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14


What Does This Mean for His Church?

If our Lord was considered a radical by the culture in which He lived (because His teachings challenged the mainstream status quo), then should our life not also do the same?  Should we not commit to being just like Jesus— to live a life of radical obedience to Him and counterculture to the morals and customs of our society (John 6:38)?

After all, we are not of this world (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11), and neither was Jesus—and that should show in every aspect of our lives.  So join with me and accept His life’s total consecration to the Father, which will most definitely be viewed as radical by your friends and family, maybe even your church.

But who cares?  After all, to “live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).


The Higher Christian Life

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78:  How to Prepare Yourself to Meet With God

78: How to Prepare Yourself to Meet With God

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Disclaimer: Let’s Define Some Terms

As we discovered in Part One of How to Experience God When You Pray— when we talk about experiencing God in prayer, we are specifically defining prayer as more than a monologue, but something even deeper.  It is a true, two-way conversation with God, where you speak, and He listens, and He speaks, and you hear His voice.  Then, as the abundant life revealed (John 10:10), we rinse and repeat, as often as we like, and grow in our relationship with Him through a true conversation in prayer.  Nothing is greater than having God personally speak into your life.  And your prayer life and intimacy with God will be completely revolutionized when you experience His presence when you pray.

In this post, we will examine some ways to prepare ourselves to experience God when we pray.


Our Preparation for Prayer

When you went on your first date with the person who later became your spouse, do you remember the preparation you made to meet with the person you wanted to build a relationship with?  I do.  I remember it was very important for me to make a good first impression.  Why?  Well, to do otherwise was failure— and nobody wants to fail on a first date.

So I dressed in some reasonably nice clothes, or at least what was clean and didn’t smell too bad.  Granted, it was not my Sunday Best, but it was the best I had for a first date.  I made sure I brushed my teeth, ran a comb through my hair, forcefully tamed any unruly eyebrow hairs, and tried to bring out the best of me when I was meeting Karen.  And why wouldn’t I?  After all, I was enamored with this woman, totally smitten, or as the owl said in Bambi, twitterpated.  I wanted to build a long-term relationship with her and hopefully, someday, maybe, if I got really lucky and won the lottery, make her my wife.

So preparation was important— really important.  Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


Preparing to Enter His Presence

And if this is true about a first date, how much more is it true about entering into the presence of God in prayer?  This means that when we pray, when we desire to have a direct, personal conversation with the Creator of the Universe— when we speak to the Almighty and expect to be heard and then expect Him to stoop to our level and respond, there must be some prior preparation that takes place.  After all, we take the time to update our resume and try to look our best and learn about the company before we sit down for a job interview, don’t we?  And we would never go to our childhood friend’s wedding in the same clothes we wore while mowing the yard, would we?  And most certainly, we brush our teeth, sometimes twice, before sitting in the dentist’s chair.  So if we make preparations before these events, how much more before we bow our heads in prayer?

Let me list three steps we need to do before boldly entering into His presence in prayer.  But be warned, each of these is vital for experiencing Him when you pray.


First, We Must Prepare Our Hearts to Meet With Him

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, (why) for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), which is exactly what we are hoping to accomplish through prayer.  We want to experience His presence— and that begins with preparing our hearts before Him.  Since God is holy, we must make ourselves as holy as we can by confessing our sins and asking for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  This way, we can come to Him as He requires, with “clean hands and pure heart” (Psalm 24:4).  We must also search our heart and forgive those who have hurt us as He, in the same manner, has forgiven us who have sinned against Him (Matt. 6:14-15).  And we must surrender all self-will and independence to Him by freely and voluntarily presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, one that He finds “holy and acceptable” (Rom. 12:1).  This allows the Spirit to renew our minds and align our desires more according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), which is vital to having your prayers answered.


Next, We Enter His Presence, His Way

The Scriptures give us clear instructions on how we are to enter into His presence, and we would be wise to follow what it commands.  Psalm 100:4 says, for example, as we come to God in prayer, we are to enter His presence with praise, worship and thanksgiving, focusing on His character, His mighty works, and His unmatched worthiness.  This is one way we “bless His name,” as the Psalm requires.  We must recognize who He is and who we are and then, once again, surrender control of our lives to Him as we strive to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him.  We then wait in stillness before Him, opening our spiritual senses in eager expectation of His presence in a way that fills us with supernatural peace (Phil. 4:6-7), joy (Psalm 16:11), and spiritual strength (Isa 40:31).  There is truly nothing like it this side of heaven.


Finally, the Good Stuff— a Two-Way Conversation

If we prepare ourselves to meet with Him, prayer then becomes a two-way conversation and not a one-sided monologue.  We speak to Him, and we listen for His still, small voice to speak to us in return (1 Kings 19:11-13).  Or maybe He chooses to speak to us in something other than a still, small voice, which is sometimes frightening (Ex. 19).  No matter.  He can do what He wants, and we just marvel that He is willing, and we are able, to communicate with the Creator of All.  We make our requests known to Him as our loving Father (Matt. 6:8, 7:7-11), while having the freedom to express our thoughts and emotions honestly (Ps. 62:8), knowing there is no condemnation in Him (Rom. 8:1).  We can ask for insight into His Word and receive revelation by the Spirit (John 16:13-15), as we wait patiently for Him to speak to our inner being about the concerns on our hearts.  This is what prayer is all about, a two-way communion with God that fuels our love for Him and puts our faith on steroids.  And this is an experience you can have when you pray— personally hearing from God and then responding accordingly.


Some Final Thoughts

In closing, let me list just a few final points to help us experience God when we pray.


One, Learn to Make Jesus-Centered Petitions

After aligning our own hearts with the Father in worship and two-way conversation, we’re now ready to intercede for others.  As we lift up people and circumstances to Him by name, we base our petitions on the finished work of Jesus on the cross, which secures our relationship with the Father, and on the Father’s will, and not on what we think needs to happen.  We ask in faith according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), with confidence in His compassion and power to always do what is right, even when we can’t see it at the present time (Rom. 8:28).  We pray His Word, and we pray according to His Word, which always accomplishes His purposes (Isa. 55:11).  And this fact alone gives us profound trust to intercede to our Father for those we love, and then leave the results in His capable and loving hands.  If you learn to approach God this way, you will never be disappointed.  His timing is always perfect.


Two, Come to Him in Child-like Boldness

Jesus said He would answer prayers asked “in My name” (John 16:23-24).  To pray in the name of Jesus means to come before our Father with the full authority Jesus has given us as children of God.  Just as a child asks something of their loving father based on their loving relationship rather than merit, we can now boldly approach God’s throne of grace in full assurance of His love and acceptance (Heb. 4:16), no matter what.  So as we grow in intimacy with Him and in our understanding of His love and delight over us as His children, we will gain confidence to ask Him for anything and everything on our hearts.  And while God delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Ps. 37:4), He also lovingly gives us what He knows is best when our desires don’t align with His greater plans, which, unfortunately, often happens.  And so, as we trust Him fully in child-like dependence, He fills us with His peace and joy in the midst of every circumstance— no matter how unpleasant that circumstance may be at the time.


Three, Learn to Stay Connected

Finally, remember that God designed prayer for continual connection and communion with Him because He longs for a relationship with us.  As we learn to pray with a clean heart, enter His presence in worship, listen for His voice in a two-way conversation, intercede in Jesus’ name for others, and come to Him with child-like boldness, we will experience His presence in ways that transform our everyday lives.  It is a given. Our job is to simply stay connected to the Vine, which is Christ, and let Him take care of everything else (John 15).  And prayer is His designed way to keep us connected to our Father.

But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.  Take some time to prepare yourself before you pray, and see if God doesn’t reward your diligence with a renewed infilling of His Spirit and the joy of His presence.  You will then begin to experience God when you pray, which is nothing short of heaven on earth.

Go on, give it a try.


The Higher Christian Life

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77:  How to Experience God When You Pray

77: How to Experience God When You Pray

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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The Joy of Prayer

What if your times of prayer could become so much more than reciting words or listing random requests?  What if your prayers could transport you into a holy place to experience God’s presence in a very real and tangible way?  What if you began having personal, life-changing encounters with the Creator of the universe every time you prayed?  And what if you had the confidence to know, to truly know— that God hears your prayers and delights in answering them?  How would this change your prayer life?

All of this is not only possible, but readily available and expected every time we pray.  The problem for most, however, is that we either devalue what prayer truly is or do not fully understand who we are praying to.  And if we did, how the floodgates of heaven would open and pour on us an experience with God that would rock our world and change us forever.

Let’s explore prayer a little deeper.


What is Prayer?— In Just a Few Words

Simply put, prayer is talking with God.  Or, as the theologians would say, “Prayer is personal communication with God.”¹  Ok, got that. But what does “communication with God” really mean?  In essence, “communication” is the exchange of information between two entities or individuals, both the giving and receiving of the same.  And “with God” means He, the Sovereign Creator of All, the One that transcends all human thought, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable One, is on the other end of our two-way conversation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

When we pray, and as often as we pray, we are in the process of not only talking with God but having Him also talk with us.  Prayer, just like all communication between two individuals, is not saying what you want to say and then hanging up the phone.  It was never intended to be a monologue.  No, prayer is a two-way conversation, both giving and receiving, between you (ultimately dust and ashes) and God (revealed in resplendent glory), whereby information (praise, requests, supplication, petitions— and His answers, instructions, commands, and encouragement ) are mutually shared.  And the highest glory you can ever experience is to have the only Person worthy of praise actually speak to you personally, in direct conversation.  It is a life-altering and faith-building encounter that will change everything about you in an instant.

And this is available to each of us whenever we pray.  But we have to pray, and we have to understand exactly who we are in conversation with in order to have confidence when we pray.

Let me explain.


Sovereign, Ruler, King… and Father

In the Old Testament, God was often presented as unapproachable.  He only met with His people once a year, nestled between the outstretched wings of the Cherubim above the Bema seat of the Ark of the Covenant, hidden behind a thick veil.  Or when He revealed Himself to the masses, it was usually with fire and smoke and lightning, like on Mt. Sinai, which only reinforced His unapproachableness (Ex. 19).  And when Moses asked to see His glory and His face, God said, “No.”  His actual words were, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20).  And regarding seeing His glory, God also said, “No.”  But He did allow Moses to look at His receding glory as He passed by (Ex. 33:23).  Something like, “Not My face, Moses, but you can see My back as I walk away.”

So much for an intimate relationship with our Creator.

But in the New Testament (and hints in the Old), Jesus reveals another aspect of God’s nature and His relationship with us.  He is not a despot— a frightening, powerful King ready to abuse and punish His lowly servants for any slight infraction.  No, God is our Father, with all the implications that word conveys about our relationship with Him.  Jesus showed us, by His example, what it was like to live on earth with the confidence of knowing God is our Father and that we can come to Him with anything, at any time, and have His complete attention.  And Jesus teaches us how to pray in His Sermon on the Mount with these words, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).   You see, it’s all about a family relationship.

God is our Father.  Maybe not like the flawed and imperfect father you may have had growing up.  But He is our Father, the perfect Father, who loves His children beyond description and only wants the best for them.  Remember, as much as you love your children and, if necessary, would gladly sacrifice your life for them— God loves you, His children, even more.  And He has already sacrificed the life of His Son because of His love for you.  That fact alone, if you have ears to hear, should take your breath away and fill you with joy.


He is Father… but Also Sovereign, Ruler, and King

Yes, God is love, and He loves us as His children (1 John 4:8).   But when we pray, we also must realize that God is all-powerful (without limit) and all-knowing (without limit) and always present (without limit) and never changes (no matter what).  There is nothing higher than our Father.  There is no court of appeals that can overturn His ruling, no other official He has to get permission from before speaking, and no one to whom He is accountable.  And there is nothing greater than our God— nothing (Isa. 40:25).  This means that when you pray to your Father, when you speak with Him about whatever is on your heart, there is no one greater than the One listening to your prayers.  No one, ever— nor will there ever be.

After all, He “spoke” the universe into existence (Gen. 1).  What do you think He can do for our simple requests?

But it gets better.

God, our Father, is the only One who can answer our prayers.  He alone has the power and wisdom and sovereignty to do what no one else can do.  So when we approach Him as His children, dearly loved by our Father, we have access to the only One who can grant our requests, take away our pain, heal our loved ones, restore a broken relationship, redeem a wayward child, heal a broken body or a crushed heart, or tell us what to do when the way forward seems dark and foreboding.

Our Father is the King of the Universe.  And (as our Father) He grants us bold access to (as Sovereign King) His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16), so we can experience the supernatural peace of knowing, in our present, uncertain situation, no matter how dark or hopeless it may seem, our Father is in control.  As Paul said to the church at Philippi:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7.

Or, as Coach Grant Taylor asked his players after winning the State Championship in Facing the Giants, “You tell me what’s impossible with God?”  And they answered, “Nothing, coach.” That’s right, nothing is impossible with God (Matt. 19:26), and this is where our peace is found.

As our Father, we have direct access to Him and His complete attention.  And as Sovereign Lord and King, our Father is the only One who has the power to answer our prayers.  So rest in this truth, and put it into practice when you approach Him in prayer.

And once you tell Him what is on your heart or make a request of your loving Father, the King— leave it there.  He is quite capable of dealing with your problems and concerns.


But There is More

We have much more to say about prayer and how to experience God when we pray.  In future posts, we will talk about how to approach Him in prayer, how to prepare our hearts before we pray, how to pray with confidence and expectation, how to pray according to His will and in His name, how to cultivate a two-way relationship with Him that brings boldness and indescribable joy when we pray, how to stay connected to Him in prayer even amidst the chaos and noise that surrounds us, how to pray in childlike simplicity and faith, and so much more.

But for today, focus on your relationship with Him as His child (which makes Him approachable) and on His power and sovereignty in everything (which means He can do anything at any time, so why worry when we leave our troubles with Him), and rest on these two facts alone.

Pray with confidence, pray with expectation, pray with thankfulness, pray continuously, and then share with others what He has shown you in your conversations with Him.

And remember, the best is yet to come.


Notes

1. Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 376).  Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.



The Higher Christian Life

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76:  The God-Ordained Way to Increase Your Faith

76: The God-Ordained Way to Increase Your Faith

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Just Get Out of the Boat! 

In almost every area of life, when we commit to a plan of self-improvement, we expect to spend time, incur costs, and suffer strain during the process.  It just comes with the territory.  Whether we decide to get in shape and eat healthier, or go back to school and change careers— everyone seems to follow the same pattern of sacrifice that defines our struggle, and they seldom complain about it.  And when we have achieved our goal, we look back at the sacrifice as a badge of honor, something we are proud of.

Each of us embraces this journey of sacrificing our time, effort, costs, and strain in every area of life except the spiritual.  For some reason, when it comes to our relationship with God or our desire for more faith, we must think it comes by osmosis to passive observers because many of us refuse to put in the time required or count the costs to achieve the results.  Therefore, we really shouldn’t be surprised when nothing changes, and we’re the same as we were before.

Remember the words attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So, if you want your faith to grow, you will have to make some changes in your life to position it to grow.  Or, you will have to deliberately place yourself in situations where you can experience God’s faithfulness firsthand by voluntarily embracing the testing of your faith and the trials that inevitably follow.  And you do that when you choose to refuse to rely on your own resources and commit to only trusting in Him.

After all, this seems to be the Lord’s preferred way of increasing the faith of those who surrender to Him.  He seems to put them in situations where they either trust God… or die.


Trust God… Or, It’s Curtains

The  Scriptures are packed with accounts of God increasing the faith of His faithful in this manner.  Consider the following examples:

•    Abraham and Isaac – Genesis 22
•    Moses at the Red Sea – Exodus 14
•    Joshua and the Battle of Jericho – Joshua 6
•    Gideon and His Army – Judges 7
•    Daniel and the Lion’s Den – Daniel 6
•    Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath – 1 Kings 17

In each of these examples, the people made a choice to trust God, maybe more than they had before, or die.  The result was that they experienced greater faith in Him than they could possibly imagine.

So how about you?  Are you ready to get out of the boat and walk to Jesus?  Or are you content to remain in the supposed security of the boat and cheer others along in their faith journey?

For me, I want to get out of the boat.  And I hope you will join me.


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75: Be Encouraged by the Small Words in Scripture

75: Be Encouraged by the Small Words in Scripture

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Three Small Words from John 15

In John 15, Jesus lays out our position in Christ and the key or path to the Higher Christian Life in the story of a vine and its branches.  I mean, it really couldn’t be more clear.  This key is found in the simple word abide.   We are to abide in Him— which means “to rest, remain, dwell, to make our home.”  Or, literally, “to be united as one with Him in heart, mind, and will.”  It is the definition of a fully surrendered life.

Yet before we discover the concept of abiding in verse 5, we first must move through the first three verses of John 15, which often present a disturbing picture of God as our Father and is, more often than not, misinterpreted by well-meaning preachers and Bible scholars.  And by misunderstanding the definition of three key words— takes away, prunes, and clean— we can fail to find the amazing encouragement Jesus offers those who are not quite up to meeting His standard of faithfulness or righteousness.


Takes Away, Prunes, and Clean

So, let’s look at these three verses as they are found in our Bibles, compare them to what they say in Greek, and see if something is “lost in translation.”

“I am the true (real, genuine, one who cannot lie) vine, and My Father is the vinedresser (farmer, one who tills the earth or ground)” – John 15:1

This simply sets the stage and introduces the cast of characters:

God = Vinedresser
Jesus = Vine
We = Branches of the Vine (John 15:5)

He continues,

“Every (pás) branch (where) in Me (Christ, vine) that does not bear (to bring, carry, have) fruit He (Father, vinedresser) takes away (aírō – G142); and every (pás) branch (implied, in Me) that bears (to bring, carry, have) fruit He (Father, vinedresser) prunes (kathaírō G2508), (why) that it may bear (to bring, carry, have) more fruit” – John 15:2

We are now introduced to the first two of our three important words: aírō and kathaírō.  The third one, katharós, is found in verse 3.

“You are already clean (katharós – G2513) because of the word which I have spoken to you” – John 15:3


Three Key Words

We now have three Greek words that we need to define to see if our English translation does them justice.  And I think, after you see the definitions for yourself, you will see it does not.

From The New Testament Word Study Dictionary by Spiros Zodhaites:

“takes away” – (aírō – G142)

This word is translated as “takes away” in our English Bibles.  But that is not what it means.

prunes – (kathaírō G2508)

And this word is translated as “prunes” in our English Bibles.  And, yet again, that is not what it means in the Greek.

clean – (katharós – G2513)

Finally, this word is correctly translated as “clean.”   So now, what does this verse look like?


Vine and the Branches

The Vinedresser, our Father, no longer takes away unfruitful branches but lifts them up, supports them, and helps them once again become fruitful, just like a natural farmer would do to his crops.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch (where) in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away (takes up, lifts up, elevates, to rise);

In a phrase, he builds a trellis to support the fallen branches of His vine.

But it gets better.

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch (where) in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away (takes up, lifts up, elevates, to rise); and every branch (implied, in Me) that bears fruit He prunes (to clean, make pure and unsoiled), that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean (pure, clean, without stain or spot, to be cleansed from filth, to purify) because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

Now, verse three seems to make sense as the Vinedresser cleans the fruitful branches to make them more fruitful and then states His disciples do not need that form of cleaning since they are already clean by the words Christ has spoken to them.


Be Encouraged

There is so much more to these three words than we can reveal in this post.  To understand more fully, please listen to the podcast and follow along with the PowerPoint slides above.

And be encouraged, you who do not, nor have not, lived a perfect life.  God doesn’t take you away when you sin.  He lifts you up, strengthens you, and puts you in a better position not to sin and become fruitful once again.  I hope this has put a smile on your face, because I am still smiling… from ear to ear.

Isn’t this just like our Father?


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74: The Purpose of the Christian Life – Experiencing God

74: The Purpose of the Christian Life – Experiencing God

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The Problem: Dry Ritual Without Relationship

For many believers, Christianity has become a religion of rules devoid of a relationship.  We know we should have a quiet time, serve in church, avoid sin, and so on.  But all this outward conformity easily lacks the inward reality of actually connecting with God.  We act spiritual, without ever experiencing the presence of the Spirit.  And that is a sad, yet common experience for many today.

How did this happen?  Partly because we’ve made faith all about knowledge over an encounter with God.  We prize book learning, doctrinal precision, and intellectual comprehension of Scripture— forgetting you can memorize the Bible and miss the Lord of the Bible.  Information in our heads doesn’t necessarily lead to transformation in our hearts.  Why?  Because head knowledge alone breeds pride, heart encounters with Christ breed authentic life change.


The Pattern: Experiencing God Transforms Us

Yet Scripture shows us a better way.  When Moses saw the burning bush, he experienced God’s awe-inspiring presence (Exodus 3).  After Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, he walked with a limp— an everyday reminder of his personal encounter with God (Gen. 32:22-32).  And when Isaiah had a powerful vision of God on his throne, he was utterly transformed forever (Isaiah 6).

For early followers of Jesus, faith wasn’t a dead tradition, but a living, vibrant relationship.  Acts 2:42 says the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  These early disciplines led to a powerful encounter with the Lord: “Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (v. 43).  Even repentance is meant to be an encounter, as we turn from sin and into the forgiving arms of Christ.


The Invitation: Taste and See Jesus

This is God’s invitation to us: not just to know about Him, but to experience Him— to taste His goodness and to know that He is good (Psalm 34:8).  And as we behold the Lord’s glory, we are transformed into His image (2 Cor 3:18), which is the goal of the Christian life.  The more we experience His presence and power, the more we reflect Christ to the world.

So, what areas of your faith have become dry rituals rather than genuine encounters with the Living God?  Consider these aspects of the Christian life that are meant to connect us with God:

Experiencing God’s Presence in Worship

Worship isn’t just singing songs or listening to a praise band— it’s meeting with the Lord, captivated by His beauty.  Through worship in Spirit and truth (John 4:24), we experience God’s presence in a life-changing way.

Experiencing God’s Power in Trials

Even our trials can lead us into deeper encounters with God’s peace (Phil. 4:6-7), comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4), and strength that carries us through.  As we turn to Him, we experience His sustaining grace.

Experiencing God’s Character Through the Spirit

The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) are not just moral qualities.  No, as we walk in step with the Spirit, He produces His fruit in our lives, whereby we experience His patience, joy, and kindness from the inside out.


The Invitation: Draw Near to God

God promises if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (Jam. 4:8).  So the ball is in our court.  Will you accept His invitation?  Will you ask the Lord for fresh encounters with Him, pray daily to behold His beauty, and let your head knowledge fuel your pursuit of heart change through experiencing Jesus?

Remember, God invites us into an intimate walk with Him, where we encounter His presence daily through prayer, worship, Scripture, and simply seeking Him.  As we taste and see His goodness, we are transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.  So, let’s shed religious rule-keeping and wholeheartedly pursue a relationship with Him.  Let’s draw near to Jesus today, and every day, expecting divine encounters that change our hearts, fuel our worship, compel us to share about Him, and ultimately fulfill our deepest purpose— which is to know and experience God through Christ our Lord.

So what are you waiting for?


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73:  Experiencing True Repentance from Psalm 51

73: Experiencing True Repentance from Psalm 51

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How to Experience God Through Repentance

In our quest for a deeper relationship with the Lord, we have been talking about what genuine repentance looks like in real-time.  And we found ourselves in the middle of Psalm 51, examining six key words in David’s prayer of repentance that show us how to not only receive forgiveness from the Lord, but how to experience His presence in the process.  And, as a reminder, the six key words found in Psalm 51:10-12 are as follows:

Please DoCreate in me a clean heart, O God, and
Please Dorenew a steadfast spirit within me.
Please Don’tDo not cast me away from Your presence, and
Please Don’tdo not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Please DoRestore to me the joy of Your salvation, and
Please Douphold me by Your generous Spirit.

But what do these words mean?  And how do they point us to a deeper Christian life of experiencing His presence when we come to Him in repentance?


(You, God) Create in Me a Clean Heart

After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David pleads,

“(You) Create (bārāʾ – to bring into existence, to create out of nothing, ex nihilo) in me (personal) a clean (ṭāhôr – clean, pure, genuine, free from moral impurity) heart (lēḇ – the immaterial part of man, the seat of a person’s mind, will, knowledge, volition, and emotions), O God (ʾelōhiym – the One True God, the Creator and Sustainer, the Sovereign One).”

He understood that he couldn’t make himself righteous through willpower alone.  No, David needed God to create something completely new in Him that he couldn’t do by himself.  The word “create” means to make something out of nothing, just as God created the universe by His word.

Likewise, we need the Lord to give us a pure, undefiled heart when we come to Him in repentance.  On our own, we can’t clean up the mess inside us.  God must perform heart surgery, transforming us from the inside out as we yield ourselves to Him.


(You, God) Renew a Steadfast Spirit Within Me

David also prays,

and (You) renew (ḥāḏaš – to restore, reestablish on a new or improved basis, to revitalize and make new or like new) a steadfast (kûn – to be marked by firm determination or resolution, to be unshakeable, to stand upright) spirit (rûaḥ) within me (personal).”

Though God cleansed David’s heart previously, he lost that wonderful experience through sin.  Now David asks God to restore what was lost, to “renew” and reestablish the steadfast spirit he once had.  David now understands he needs help staying firmly rooted in his commitment to the Lord because, left on his own, he will once again fail.

When we walk in sin and disobedience, we become spiritually unstable, often losing our zeal for God’s kingdom.  But through repentance, God renews our spirit, revitalizing our passion for Christ and His righteousness.


(You, God) Do Not Cast Me Away From Your Presence

Haunted by his grievous offenses, David worries about losing fellowship with God.  So he implores the Lord to,

“(You) Do not cast (šālaḵ – to throw, fling, to toss casually away, to dispose of) me (personal) away from Your (God) presence (pāniym – face, being before or in front of someone, proximity), and (You) do not take (lāqaḥ – grasp, seize, take away) Your Holy (qōḏeš – sacred, sanctified, set apart and consecrated to God) Spirit (rûaḥ) from me (personal).”

David fears being flung from God’s presence like worthless garbage because of his sin.  And we too, like David, must zealously guard our relationship with the Holy Spirit, who now permanently indwells believers under the new covenant.  Through Him, God makes His home in our hearts.  Sin still grieves and quenches the Spirit today, distancing us from intimate fellowship with God.  Thus, we must continually rely on Christ’s blood to cleanse our conscience and keep our access to the Father through the Spirit open and unhindered.


Restore to Me the Joy

David also prays,

“(You) Restore (šûḇ – to turn, return, to back, do again, to bring back into original existence, use, function or position) to me (personal) the joy (śāśôn – exultation, gladness, rejoicing, jubilation, an emotion of great happiness and pleasure) of Your (God’s) salvation (yēšaʿ – deliverance, rescue, help, preservation, the act of delivering from sin or saving from evil),”

David isn’t worried about losing his salvation.  Rather, he wants the delight and gladness that should flow from his salvation by God to overflow again.  He remembers the exuberance that once accompanied his walk with the Lord, but now, his tank feels empty.  He longs for that joy to bubble up afresh to energize his pursuit of Christ.

Many of us need to plead David’s prayer in our own life.  Do you “rejoice with exultation” over the salvation graciously extended to you in Christ (1 Peter 1:6, 8-9)?  Does your heart swell when reflecting on the wonder of being delivered by God from sin and condemnation?  If not, cry out to Him as David did.  Ask God to “restore to me the joy of Your salvation!”  Ask Him to unclog anything hindering the river of joy that should water your soul.


Uphold Me by Your Spirit

Finally, after begging for inner cleansing and transformation, David requests the Spirit’s ongoing sustaining grace:

and (You) uphold (sāmaḵ – sustain, support, bear up, establish, to supply with everything needed) me (personal) by (what) Your (God’s) generous (nāḏiyḇ – willing, noble, an attitude of heart that consents or agrees, magnanimous, is disposed or inclined towards, gladly willing) Spirit (rûaḥ).”

Even with a renewed heart, David knows he will stumble again without the Spirit’s help.  He needs the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide him to live faithfully before God and walk uprightly according to God’s truth.

And like David, you and I desperately require the Spirit’s daily empowerment to put sin to death and mirror Christ in our lives.  As Paul explains, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  So make it your continual prayer to depend completely on Him to uphold and steer you along righteous paths for God’s glory.


The Pathway to Restoration

We all need times of intensive spiritual repair and revival to realign our affections with Christ.  And God uses genuine repentance to bring us back to Himself.  But true repentance requires ruthless honesty, not superficial lip service.  So follow David’s example.  Pour out your heart before God.  Confess ways your love has grown cold.  Ask the Spirit to cleanse, renew, and uphold you afresh through His indwelling power.  Then, walk forward in newness of life and joy.

And go tell someone what God has done in your life.


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72:  Our Identity — Stop Striving, Start Abiding

72: Our Identity — Stop Striving, Start Abiding

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Embracing Who We Really Are

D.L. Moody, while on his European crusade in 1873, was so inspired by a conversation he had with British revivalist Henry Varley that he prayed:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with, and for, and through, and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.  By God’s help, I am to be that man.”

This is the essence of the desire to be all God created you to be— to be “all in for Him,” as they say.   The problem is, after we conjure up the desire, we come face-to-face with the “how to.”  In other words, how do I surrender my life to the Lord?  How do I yield everything to him?  And how do I live a truly sanctified, higher Christian life?

In any other endeavor, we would find someone who is where we want to be and model our lives after them.  But we live in the Laodicean church age, and sold-out Believers are few, especially in the West.  So what are we to do?  What’s the next step?  And is there anything we can learn about surrender from even the obscure passages in Scripture that point us in the right direction?


What Does it Mean to be God’s Servant?

After God gave David rest from all his enemies and after he consolidated the kingdom to himself, David made what he thought was a pretty good request from the Lord.  After all, he reasoned, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains” (2 Sam. 7:2), and we can’t have that.   So he decided, after receiving less than stellar advice from the prophet Nathan, to take it upon himself to build a dwelling place for God, or more specifically, for the Ark of the Covenant.  And, on the surface, it seemed like a good idea, even somewhat noble.

But God was not amused, for neither David nor Nathan had sought the Lord in this matter.

In fact, God rebuked David twice for forgetting who he was as God’s servant, or “slave” (doúlos)— which, by definition, makes God the Lord and Master of all, including David.  So, in response to God’s stinging censure, David humbled himself profoundly before God’s rebuke.  He owned his true identity as a “servant” or “slave” (doúlos), and acknowledged it ten times in his brief exchange with God (vv. 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29).  That’s ten times in just eleven verses.

So, what transformed David’s perspective?  He simply recognized his true identity before God— not as a self-made king, but as a submitted servant or faithful slave (doúlos) to the Lord.

David’s example highlights that discipleship stems from knowing we belong wholly to God.  As Paul wrote, “You are not your own… you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Have we grasped this liberating truth?  We cannot experience God’s depths while still stubbornly clinging to personal rights and claims over our lives.  True freedom, paradoxically, comes through bonding ourselves permanently to our Master as His faithful servant, longing for Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant (doúlos)” (Matt. 25:21).  Remember, God did not save us to be independent contractors employed in His service.  He has something much greater in mind.

Just like assuming a new family name changes the way we view ourselves, likewise, our core identity in Christ transforms how we approach life.  Living “all-in” starts by accepting that we now belong to Another— to Someone far greater than we can imagine.


Time to Re-Calibrate Your Identity

Perhaps it’s time to let Him recalibrate your identity like He did David.  His Word invites us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice… and be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2).  When we grasp God’s complete right to direct us, surrendering fully becomes the only reasonable response.  It is a natural outflow from the identity we now embrace— a faithful slave to the Most High King.

Let God begin the transformation of your identity today.


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71:  “Uh, My Bad,” Doesn’t Really Cut It Anymore

71: “Uh, My Bad,” Doesn’t Really Cut It Anymore

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Ten Aspects of True Repentance that Gets God’s Attention

Giving God a flippant “my bad” when we mess up just won’t cut it, no matter how hard we try to make it work.  Too often, we deal with our sin through superficial apologies, not grasping the gravity of how our choices offend our Creator and grieve His Spirit.

But in Psalm 51, David shows us a better way.  His raw, honest prayer of remorse models how genuine repentance can thoroughly transform us and restore our fellowship with God.  In his plea to God, David holds nothing back.  He pours out his grief and hope with both humility and longing, providing a template for the kind of confession that gets God’s attention and purifies us deep down.

David’s prayer reveals that repentance goes far beyond crisis management or trying to mitigate the consequences of our sins.  Instead, David walks through an intense spiritual restoration, launching him into greater intimacy with God and a commitment to remain faithful to his first love.  David finds joy and wholeness on the other side through his uncompromising honesty and hunger for spiritual renewal.

As we walk through ten key truths David models regarding repentance, may his prayer challenge each of us to put into practice what we will learn.  We, like David, cannot experience God’s full forgiveness and empowerment while still clinging to our besetting sins and flimsy excuses.  So, let’s look at these ten truths in the hope they will compel us toward the kind of soul-changing repentance that revives our passion for Christ and allows us to experience His presence.


One, David Owned Up to His Sin and Made No Excuses

The first step of repentance is openly admitting our wrong actions or attitudes without making excuses to justify ourselves.  David begins his prayer with raw honesty, saying, “For I acknowledge (yāḏaʿ) my transgressions, and my sin (singular) is always before (present) me” (v. 3).  He does not try rationalizing adultery and murder or to come up with some excuse for his actions.  David faces his evil deeds head-on, keeping no sin hidden from his awareness or accountability before God.  We display genuine repentance by owning where we have fallen short, without downplaying or explaining away our sin, or blaming someone else for our own actions.  The devil didn’t make you do it, you did.


Two, David Understood Who He had Sinned Against

Though David’s actions horribly wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, he confesses, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight” (v. 4).  Even when our sin affects others, we must recognize that all transgression violates God’s holy standard first, which is the greater sin— because all sin repels His glory.  So, by focusing on the root issue of offending God’s righteousness through sin, we gain a proper perspective of the evil of our actions, leading to our repentance.  Our sin grieves the very heart of God, and to Him first, we must repent before any others.


Three, True Repentance Comes from a Broken Spirit

David says a broken spirit and a contrite (crushed) heart reveal genuine humility (v. 17).  Religious sacrifices alone don’t move God’s forgiveness— contrition does.  Repentance requires altogether abandoning stubborn pride or entitlement or clinging to our self-justification and supposed “rightness” by honestly coming to terms with the gravity of our sin.  We must approach God, broken and shattered over the arrogance and self-centeredness corrupting our hearts, crying out for Him to create purity within us once again.


Four, Restoration From the One Offended

Though wracked with guilt, David focuses his hope on God’s power and willingness to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and (You) renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10).  He seeks inner renewal from the very Person his sin grievously hurt.  David’s hope of forgiveness and restoration rests securely in God’s compassion and drives out his guilt and shame by trusting that God wants to redeem this failure in his life— which, of course, He does.  Note: This doesn’t mean you can skate on asking others you have hurt for their forgiveness.  No, that will come, but only after you have first repented before God.  Restoration from Him is your first priority.  Restoration from others will follow in time.


Five, True Repentance Demands a Commitment to Change

Part of David’s appeal says, “Then (afterward) I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (v. 13).  He knows receiving such lavish grace now compels him into a life radically different from what he was before.  True repentance marries confession with an action plan to live differently by God’s standard.  We will inevitably slide backward if we only feel sorry but never address root heart issues.  Repentance demands embracing personal transformation and then allowing God to bring glory to Himself through His redeemed child.


Six, Repentance Means Trusting in God’s Overflowing Mercy and Love

Though David feels that the abundant mercy of God may seem inadequate for the wickedness of his actions (v. 1), he nevertheless rests entirely in God’s divine compassion, remembering God forgives even the chief of sinners.  He calls out, hope against hope, trusting God’s unmatched lovingkindness to triumph over the evil in his life.  So, no matter how far we have fallen, crying out in repentance means believing God can redeem anyone who comes with authentic humility— especially you and me.


Seven, We Must Walk in Freedom from Condemning Shame

David now begs for joy and gladness to replace his sorrow, asking God to uphold him by the Holy Spirit (v. 12).  He understands wallowing in self-hatred after forgiveness solves nothing and is an insult to the promises and nature of God.  Experiencing true repentance frees us from the paralyzing grip of guilt and shame.  Though sin’s consequences remain, and rightly so, we must embrace the healing God provides as no longer condemned sinners, but cleansed children of His.  And we glorify His mercy by walking forward in renewed peace and purpose.


Eight, We Must Use Our Restored Life to Bless Others

Forgiveness launches David into a new ministry, as it should each of us— as David now pledges his tongue will sing of God’s righteousness and teach others His truth (vv. 13-14).  Genuine repentance multiplies the ministry of redemption.  Like David, sharing our testimony offers fellow strugglers empathy, proving God patiently awaits every prodigal.  Our renewed lives remind others of how His mercy triumphs over the judgment of our sins.


Nine, We Should Desire Growth in His Wisdom and Character

Beyond removing sin’s burden, David urgently pursues deeper depth in his spiritual life by asking God to nurture truth and integrity and teach him wisdom within (v. 6).  Repentance sparks a revived appetite for the Word, prayer, and worship with others.  Remember, repentance is not about crisis management, but a launching pad for lifelong growth in understanding God and His character.


Ten, We Can Now Rejoice in His Complete Restoration

Even though the consequences of his sin remain, David ultimately sees past them to embrace the joy of full redemption his repentance provides.  He cries for God to “Make me hear joy and gladness, (why) that the bones You have broken may rejoice” (v. 8).  Repentance stands on God’s commitment that confession leads to a renewed relationship as our Father waits, ready to turn our mess into a message of hope for others.


Conclusion

David leaves no aspect of genuine repentance unaddressed through this raw, honest prayer for repentance.  He shows us exactly how to tear down stubborn strongholds and find complete redemption in Him.  Through brutal honesty, a desire for inner wisdom, commitment to change, and a firm trust in God’s mercy, David finds his supernatural restoration that is the byproduct of true repentance— and so can we.

David’s journey must now become our own.  We cannot run from pockets of willful sin or spiritual blindness, thinking God will fully use compromised vessels.  So, like David, we must do the hard part and plead for His Spirit to inspect every hidden corner in our lives— because shortcuts will not produce the deep spiritual health and wholeness we long for.  But as we fully open our lives to His correction, true forgiveness and restoration wait on the other side.

David discovered firsthand that true repentance opens the floodgates to renewed joy and purpose.  There is simply no better place to be than fully surrendered at the feet of Jesus.  In Psalm 51, David guides us step-by-step through confession, cleansing, and revival, which is critical for walking in new life.  I pray David’s bold prayer softens and strengthens us to experience the fullness of Christ’s promises to those who confess and forsake their sin.

If you need renewal and restoration because of your sins, no matter how small you may think them to be, follow David’s example.

And do it today.


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