Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Pray without ceasing"

written by Mark Rabon

Have you ever read this verse and asked yourself: "and how am I supposed to do that?  Does God expect me to be continually in prayer with Him?" The answer is yes, He does.  Paul does not add "except if....".  However, God knows that our feeble minds are easily distracted by the events of our life and that we can get caught up in our own world.  When we are not in conversation with God, we lose that intimacy in our relationship with Him that is so important to our spiritual growth.  God's desire for us is to be conformed to the character of Jesus Christ, that we display His righteousness in our lives as the Holy Spirit works in us.  We are not capable of doing this ourselves, since our flesh is constantly trying to satisfy its own desires instead of submitting to God.

In the Greek, this verse is comprised of only two words: "adialeiptos proseukesthe", an adverb preceeding the main verb.  The adverb adialeiptos means "constantly" or "unceasingly" and is used four times in the New Testament (Romans 1:9; and Thessalonians 1:3; 2:13; 5:17).  The main verb proseukesthe is a second person plural present middle/passive imperative of proseukesthe meaning "I pray".  The imperative mood here tells us that this is not an option for Christians to do when they have time or only at regularly scheduled times.  This must be done much more often than that in order for us to know God better each day.  The middle voice lets us know that when we pray, we do receive a benefit from the action of praying: we are talking one on one with the Creator of the universe.  What a privilege this is!  Let's not fail to take advantage of it by allowing our sin nature to make excuses to not pray.  "If the spiritual life be healthy, under the full power of the Holy Spirit, praying without ceasing will be natural"- Andrew Murray (South African writer, teacher, and Christian pastor). 

So when you wake up in the morning, thank God for that day.  And when you finish getting ready for whatever you will be doing, pray again.  Pray whenever your thoughts about other things have departed.  Pray when you want to focus on something.  Talk to God about anything and everything in your life.  Let God into your life and you will never have to wonder about what if.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Romans 12:3

"For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith."

Have you recently stopped yourself in the middle of a day and recognized that to that point your thoughts have been exclusively focused on yourself? When our thinking is not properly oriented to the Word of God we succumb to the natural worldly temptation to be occupied with ourselves and place our temporal wants and needs at any given moment ahead of the priorities of our Creator.  Arrogance is often perceived as an easily identifiable vice on display in the form of condescension, thoughtlessness, and boastfulness, but in fact the essence of arrogance is the elevation of ourselves to the point of focus in our daily thoughts. This can take the form of guilt, pride, self-loathing, self justification, self-promotion, and many other patterns of systematic breakdowns of our thinking from God centered to self centered.  Perpetual arrogance leads us on a path to self destruction for as Paul explains to us in Romans 12:3 when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought we lose the ability to have sound judgment.  The theme of the book of Romans is that we are justified (eternally saved) not on the basis of our own power and ability but by the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Apart from grace we would be facing eternal suffering in the lake of fire!  Imagine if someone rescued you from a burning building, would you spend the subsequent moments occupied with yourself or with thoughts of thanksgiving and a desire to express your gratitude for the one who has saved you?  Now consider that you were eternally rescued at the cross!

Reflect for a moment on Paul who went from being the worst persecutor of Christians of his time to the greatest of all believers and the author of most of the New Testament epistles. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 states- "For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Paul became the most respected believer of his time and perhaps the greatest believer of any time but he never allowed anyone to forget who he was when our Lord Jesus Christ called him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  Paul's perpetual humility was sustained by an ever present realization of his depraved past and the grace which saved him.  We are told in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to imitate Paul just as he imitated Christ.  The basis for our imitation is humility for Christ humbled Himself to the point of death and it was in the cross of Christ not in his own works did Paul boast as he tells us in Galatians 6:14- "But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
We have no basis for placing ourselves at the center of our thinking nor do we have anything to boast about as we are told in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."  Our thoughts must perpetually focus on this eternal reality which means continuous thanksgiving and a desire to walk in the works (whatever they may be) that God has prepared before hand as part of the measure of faith that He has allotted to us.  Take inventory of your thoughts throughout your day to ensure that you are not succumbing to the natural inclination to focus on yourself, instead turn to continuous prayer to re-orient yourself to the eternal priorities of God.