Prayer: Assurance, Questions, and a Right Perspective

In 1 John 3:21-22, John tells us that those who are confident before God have their prayers answered. Confidence comes to those who have examined themselves with the test of love John provides in 1 Jn 3:16-19. After examining themselves they have found that they are able to persuade their hearts that they are God’s children because they see evidences of biblical love present in their lives. As a result, they can and should go boldly before God in prayer, knowing they will receive what they ask of God because they keep His commandments and do what is pleasing before Him. John writes,

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
(1 John 3:21-22 ESV)

God is Not Our Cosmic Genie in the Sky

With these verses, John is not turning God into a Cosmic Genie and supporting a Health Wealth Gospel, which is evident because after telling us God answers our prayers, he provides the reason our prayers are answered at the end of verse 22.

What is the Basis for Answered Prayer?

The basis for answered prayer is two-fold and requires we:

(1) Keep God’s commandments

(2) Do what is pleasing to Him

When a person keeps God’s commandments and does what is pleasing to Him, they show they are a true believer. True believers will pray according to God’s will because His will has become their will.

In addition to seeking God’s will, when John tells us that answered prayer comes to those who do things that are pleasing to God, it includes things we ask for in our prayers. This means believers would not ask God to make them into a millionaire, give them a new car because it makes them look cool, or ask God to cause a jury to acquit them, when they are guilty of their crime. These things are not done in obedience to God’s commandments, nor are they done to please God; rather, they are done to please oneself.

So, those who desire to obey God’s commandments and do those things which please Him, will have their prayers answered because their prayers will be inline with God’s commandments and with what pleases Him.

When God Does Not Answer Prayer

In talking about answered prayer, the question usually arises: What about those times when we are confident before God, coming boldly to the throne room of prayer, obeying His commandments and seeking to do those things that please Him, as well as we are praying according to God’s will, but our prayer is seemingly not answered right away, why does this occur?

In other words, what are we to think when God does not seemingly answer our prayers?

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time, when faced with this question gives this counsel:

If you have been knocking at the gate of mercy and have received no answer, shall I tell you why the mighty Maker has not opened the door and let you in? Our Father has reasons peculiar to himself for keeping us waiting. Sometimes it is to show His power and His sovereignty, that men may know that Jehovah has a right to give or to withhold. More frequently the delay is for our profit.

You are perhaps kept waiting in order that your desires may be more fervent. God knows that delay will quicken and increase desire, and that if He keeps you waiting, you will see your necessity more clearly, and will seek more earnestly; and that you will prize the mercy all the more for its long tarrying. There may also be something wrong in you that has need to be removed, before the joy of the Lord is given. Perhaps your views of the gospel plan are confused, or you may be placing some little reliance on yourself, instead of trusting simply and entirely in the Lord Jesus. Or, God makes you tarry awhile that He may the more fully display the riches of His grace to you at last.

Your prayers are all filed in Heaven, and if not immediately answered; they are certainly not forgotten, but in a little while shall be fulfilled to your delight and satisfaction. Let not despair make you silent, but continue instant in earnest supplication [1].

In another place He also says,

Still remember that prayer is always to be offered in submission to God’s will; that when we say that God hears prayer, we do not intend that He always gives us literally what we ask for. We do mean, however, that He gives us what is best for us. If He does not give us the mercy we ask for in silver, He bestows it upon us in gold. If he does not take away the thorn in the flesh, He says, “My grace is sufficient for thee, and that comes to the same in the end [2].

So, if it seems that God does not answer our prayer, there are a number of reasons for that, but we always are to pray that God’s will be done and rest in that.

Conclusion

In these verses, John seeks to assure believers who are confident before God, obey His commandments, and do what is pleasing to Him, that God will answer their prayers, even if it does not seem like He does. As a result, we are to come boldly before God in prayer, lifting our requests up to Him. After which, we are to remain confident He has heard us, and we are to know that He will answer in due time and in the way He sees fit, if He has not answered already.

So then, may we all examine ourselves to see if we are true believers. If we are true believers, may we all go boldly to God this week in our time of prayer, knowing the Lord hears us and will answer us in due time.

Resources

[1] Spurgeon on Prayer: How to converse with God, compiled and edited by Harold J. Chadwick, 59-60.

[2] Spurgeon on Prayer: How to converse with God, compiled and edited by Harold J. Chadwick, 304.

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Blessed are the Forgiven!!!

Are you happy as a Christian? Are you excited about your walk with the Lord? Do you understand the magnitude of your forgiveness?

I understand that you may not feel happy or excited everyday about everything, but when you reflect on the forgiveness God has granted you in Christ you should experience joy and happiness. David in Psalm 32 says the forgiven are blessed – they are happy, excited, joyful – because they understand the magnitude of their forgiveness.

The Magnitude of Our Forgiveness

God sent His Son to earth to die for the sins of mankind. Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph and lived a perfect life making Him the perfect sacrifice. He willingly went to the cross, obeying His Father’s will. In the hands of the executioners, He suffered an excruciating death. He was beaten, whipped, a crown of thorns driven into His head, He was then forced to carry His own cross, and subsequently nailed to it. He was lifted up along with two others who were common criminals. All the while people were hurling obscenities at Him. They were rejecting and cursing the one who came to save them.

In the midst of all that happened, God was redeeming mankind to Himself. Since man could not pay the price for their own sin, or mend their relationship with God, God did it for them in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Through His death we are forgiven and our relationship is made right with God. Through His death we are able to experience eternal life. Through His death we will one day experience a life free from suffering.

You see the magnitude of our forgiveness is almost incomprehensible. Why would a Holy God send His only Son to suffer and die for a people who are unholy and deserve nothing but death? Because He loves us (John 3:16).

Appeal

The next time you are feeling down, unhappy, or unexcited think about the magnitude of your forgiveness. It should cause you to cry out like David saying blessed are the forgiven!!!

What is the Gospel? Rethinking its Content

In the first installment of this series entitled, What is the Gospel?, I introduced the series and gave readers a brief sketch of where we are headed. In this second installment, I turn our focus to the content of the Gospel message.

If you ask most Christians today what the content of the Gospel is, you will most likely hear John 3:16 quoted. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” After which you may hear an explanation that goes like this: God sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins, in order that we might have eternal life. Our job is to believe that Christ is our Savior and we will be saved. While this is correct, I will argue that John 3:16 is only part of the Gospel.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believe John 3:16 is a crucial part of the Gospel message, but I don’t believe John 3:16 represents the entire message.  Rather, it is the climax of God’s redemptive plan. In order to understand the full content of the Gospel we have to zoom out, way out, and look at the whole counsel of God’s Word because the Gospel traverses from Genesis to Revelation.

Tracing the Gospel from Genesis to Revelation

The Proto-Evangelion

Starting with Genesis 3:15, we are introduced to the proto-evangelion, or first gospel. After Adam and Eve attempted to subject God to their rule in the garden by disobeying God’s commandment to not eat from the tree of good and evil, ultimately showing that they rejected God’s rule and understanding of what is best for them, God provides hope for a restored relationship through the promised defeat of Satan. We read, “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Here hope exists in the midst of punishment and despair. God has promised to defeat Satan one day through one man’s actions, which restores God’s relationship with both man and creation. As Scripture unfolds, we learn more about God’s plan of redemption.

Abraham through David

Through His covenant with Abraham, the nation of Israel is born and a people are set aside as God’s chosen people (Gen. 12). Through these chosen people, a line is preserved from which Jesus is born (Matt. 1). Along the way, God honors His covenant with Abraham, renewing it with Isaac (Gen. 26) and Jacob (Gen. 28). He also provides the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 20), in order to inform His people of the way they should live and as a means of removing their sin. He later makes a covenant with David (2 Sam. 7). The Davidic covenant brings promises of an unending royal lineage to rule on the throne of the kingdom. After which, many leaders and kings arose throughout redemptive history, but none were God’s chosen Son who would redeem His people.

The temple sacrifices of goats and bulls were not able to change the hearts of the people either. They were temporary measures by which God’s wrath was appeased. They allowed a Holy God to live amongst an unholy people, but they could not satisfy the wrath of God eternally (Heb. 8-10 see especially 10:1-18).

A New Covenant is Promised

God also knew that His people could not keep His commandments because their heart had not been changed. However, in Jeremiah 31, a New Covenant is promised. One that would put the law of God in the hearts of the people, giving them a new heart, allowing them to enter into a right relationship with God.

Jesus’ Birth to His Return

In God’s perfect timing, Jesus was born to Mary, a virgin. He lived a perfect life, and willingly subjected Himself to a painful death on the cross, in order to pay for our sins. What the sacrifices and Law of the Old Testament could not accomplish, Jesus did, in His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead (Isa. 53; Gal. 3:16-29; Heb. 10). By humbling ourselves and believing that Jesus is our Savior, we are saved from eternal punishment, just as John 3:16 tells us, but much more happens at that time. Our relationship with God is restored (Heb 10:22). And ultimately, at the return of Jesus Christ, all creation will be restored (Is 65; Daniel 9; Rev 21-22). The world will be recreated, and not only will man’s relationship with God be perfect, but God’s relationship with creation will be redeemed and made right (Isa. 65). Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead accomplishes much more than giving us eternal life; it redeems all creation, so that man and creation are able to accomplish their God-given purpose, which is to glorify God (Ps. 86:9; Isa. 60:21; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11).

Summary

In summary, the content of the Gospel includes everything from Genesis to Revelation. It is a story that tells of God’s plan to redeem fallen man and creation. It began in Genesis 3:15, climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and will serve to restore all creation when Christ returns. As one can see, the Gospel includes John 3:16, but it also includes much more.

Resources

In order to help you continue to think through the breadth of the Gospel message, I have attached an article by D.A. Carson on the Gospel.

The Biblical Gospel – D.A. Carson

Looking Forward

In my next post, I will consider The Functional Centrality of the Gospel.