Wednesday, September 19, 2012
1st John Chapter 3 Part 13
3:22-23 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
John stated that the heart that does not condemn us has confidence toward God, that we may approach in prayer and expect to receive those things we ask for. We read in verse 22 that whatsoever we ask we receive of God. Here I think we should touch upon the problem of unanswered prayer. First, however, I would like to commend the book The Kneeling Christian, by an unknown Christian for reading on this topic. I found it insightful and highly practical.
That said, what do we do with the admission by John that we receive whatsoever we ask of God in prayer if our hearts do not condemn us? We learned already that the condemned heart is a guilty conscience before God, and our sins, or sense of our sin, prevents us from approaching the throne to ask what we will; even for pardon sometimes. But to the Christian who is walking with the Lord and has no sense of guilt impeding him should expect to have his prayers answered. Then why are not more prayers noticeably answered? The Psalmist writes: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4. Only a heart whose chief delight is God and nothing else is going to prevail in prayer with his God like Elijah. But perhaps we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves.
We find that believing God exists happens to be a requisite before God will listen to prayers offered by man, Hebrews 11:6. The unsaved man, the atheist, deist or well-to-doer will sometimes pray when the pinch comes, but they pray not out of sense of God’s reality and ability to intercede for those that are His, but out of sheer desperation. Faith in God is required before prayers are heard. Furthermore, James writes that a sterile faith in God that produces no action in our lives is little better, James 2:19. The apostle notes that even demons possess this type of faith. No, it is not the prayer of religious men or hopeful agnostics that God hears, either. Only His children, who are called by His name, have the privilege of calling on the Lord in prayer, Genesis 4:26; 2nd Chronicles 7:14.
Again the criteria slims the possibilities about God hearing and responding favorably toward prayer. James writes: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts,” James 4:2-3. These Christians, whom James berates vehemently, were praying to God in an effort to coax or coerce the Lord of all the earth into doing their own selfish wills. Prayer was being used as a method of achieving some worldly lust; God finds this act very wicked. Prayer isn’t a link to God so we can get what we want from Him like Santa Claus; no, it is a method of communication between man to God and a form of worship when the saint prays rightly. Worship is ascending love; it is love given to the divine and reserved only for Him; thusly prayer should contain in it things we share with God that we would tell no one else, names we would give no one else.
So we learn that prayer, truly spiritual prayer that God heeds and answers, comes from a heart surrendered to Him and delighting in His will. First we must be born again, or no prayer of ours will be heard by our Creator. We are His creation, but not yet His child through adoption by the blood of Jesus Christ. For those who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, prayer only prevails when we enter into God’s will. Praying for something blatantly against God’s will surely will yield poor results. At best, God will give you what you desire but also give you spiritual leanness, Psalm 106:15. You can survive off of bread and water, but God would nourish us if only we would enter into the mind of Christ when He said to the Father, “not My will, but Yours, be done,” Luke 22:42.
John gives a twofold answer as to how a man may be confident in knowing that God will respond to prayer. I believe these are conjoined and really just one answer. John writes that we keep His commandments and do those things pleasing in His sight. To keep His commandments is to perform what is pleasing in God’s sight. Do we want to know that God hears and responds to our prayers? Keep His commandments and do what is pleasing in His sight, not your own. John then clarifies what he means. Some teach that to keep His commandments is to keep the Law, or at least the Ten Commandments in some legalistically binding sense.
The Law (say they) still prevails and binds Christians just as much as it did the Jews when they entered into covenant with Yahweh and agreed to perform the Law, accepting also the punishments for disobedience. Only Israel received the OT Law, Deuteronomy 4:7-8; Psalm 147:19-20. The Law was a tutor to prepare Israel for its Savior for the purpose of being justified, not by the Law, but by faith, Galatians 3:24. The Law justified no one; it gave us the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20. Those who enforce the OT Law are slaves to it to uphold its impossible demands, Acts 15:10; James 2:10; Galatians 5:3.
Paul summarized the Law in one simple command: “love your neighbor as yourself;” a command given by God to Israel long before that, Romans 13:9; Leviticus 19:18. Paul deals with the portion of the Ten Commandments that pertains to relationships between fellow men. Notice in Romans 13:9 how the apostle names the commands forbidding murder, lying, adultery, coveting, stealing, etc? These are commandments which forbid sinful action against men, accompanied by stern penalties if violated. Paul says instead that all these commands are summarized by loving your neighbor as yourself; love does no harm to a neighbor, says the apostle, so love fulfills the law, Romans 13:10. The OT Law dealt with man in the flesh by appealing to fear and threat of punishment; the NT commandment appeals to spiritual men reborn in God’s image, motivated instead by God’s love and our own.
John tells us that the command is twofold: we ought to believe on the name of Jesus Christ and love one another. Jesus gave commandment for both of these, John 14:1; John 3:16; 5:24; 14:6. It is our continuing faith in Christ that inspires and empowers our ability to love our fellow Christians with the kind of love the apostle has been describing throughout his epistle. This initial command (as seen in John 14:1) was made to already saved men. Therefore it is imperative for us as Christians to continue to believe on Christ so our faith is firmly grounded in Him, lest we drift away from it like the writer of Hebrews warns, Hebrews 2:1. We must be constantly in the word, in prayer, in fellowship and in service to our God. When I say in service I do not mean in church; I mean practicing our faith-living it out-in our daily lives. The church assembly was created in order to stir this up in us and we are exhorted not to depart from the body, Hebrews 10:24-25. Otherwise loss of fellowship with God will yield a sterile Christian who John defines as walking in darkness, utterly blinded, 1st John 1:6; 2:9.