Doug Wilson – How to pray and beseech God

September 9, 2012 Text: Psalm 70 Doug Wilson (the first 5 minutes of 45 min message):

There are two and only two fundamental approaches to God in the world. There are two and only two conceptions of God in the world:

  1. One is: God is God and we are not. God is the center of all things.
  2. And the other is: God on the side, God somewhere on the side to help me if I need help. But, I am fundamentally god. I am the fundamental center of all things and He comes around to help or not, at different times. I am the center of the solar system and everything revolves around me

So there are 2 fundamental conceptions of God. One sees the Lord God almighty high and lifted up. The other might be called the domestic animal approach to God, where the ostensible worshipper keeps ‘a god’ on hand the way you might keep a cow for the milk. God is worked, god is the cosmic vending machine in the sky. God is there in order to help you out, that’s his job. He is god in heaven, god on tap.

Now, I am speaking in an obviously disrespectful way- domestic animal approach to keeping god, keeping god for the milk, a vending machine god, god on tap. That’s all disrespectful. That’s disrespectful in how it’s phrased. But, there are people who refuses to phrase it that way who still function that way.

We know from the Bible that God is God altogether. God is God through and through. It’s not a little bit of God here and a little bit of God there. All of God is everywhere, all of God is all of God. That which is true of God is true of all of Him. Now, we know, as christians who want to pursue God centered worship, we know that’s a good phrase. God centered worship is better than man centered worship. But, there’s a way of formulating God centered worship which is at the heart (down in secret places) still man centered worship.

So we know that we want to worship God high and lifted up, but, we don’t know what to do. Once we’ve got that fixed in our minds, we don’t know what to do when the Lord high and lifted up tells us to tell Him to do things; when God, the ultimate God tells us to approach Him and give Him no rest until He answers our prayer. When that God tells us to ask for something, we don’t quite know what to do. We act like Ahaz, and in the name of a high view of God refuse to obey Him.

The prophet Isaiah says, „Ask whatever sign you want,” and he says, „I’m not gonna do that… not me, I don’t wanna be disrespectful.”  Look, the almighty God has just sent a prophet to tell you what to do and you’re saying: No, because I’ve got a too high view of God. That’s the Ahaz approach. Ahaz’s approach is an approach that pretends to a high view of God, but it really isn’t. What we are doing is we’re taking refuge in certain piety, certain expressions, certain confessional expressions and our christian life is not vibrant and alive. We don’t have an ongoing functional relationship with God that’s in accordance with how God describes it, how God invites us to approach Him.

In this psalm, Psalm 70, this psalm is basically a section of Psalm 40. This psalm is a shorter version or a portion of Psalm 40.. with some changes (Yahweh for Elohim, for example). The psalmist is in trouble, as he frequently is and he cries out to God in his trouble. Some of us might think, „I think David is doing this on purpose. I think David, maybe needs to get into an anger management class or a relationship class.” David doesn’t need to do anything other than pursue God, pursue God and then, lo and behold, what happens is opposition. If someone is sold out to God in this world he will have adversaries, he will have trouble. He will have this sort of trouble.

So, the psalmist is in trouble, he frequently is in trouble, he beseeches God to get a move on. Verse 1: Hurry up God. Now, not only does he want God to come quickly. He knows what he wants God to do when God arrives. He wants God to show up and shame and confound the adversaries of his soul. (first 5 minutes of message)

On Telling God to Hurry Up

Sermon: On Telling God to Hurry Up from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Unbelief Thinks God Can Be Gamed

You think you can come to church on the outside, and sing the hymn on the outside, and listen to the sermon on the outside, and have your heart far from Him. The Scripture talks about this problem- with their lips they approach Him, but, their hearts are far from Him.  THAT IS WHAT UNBELIEF DOES.

Unbelief submits to God externally; there is an unbelief that rebels against Him, defies Him. But, through various circumstances that unbelief is brought to church, that unbelief is somehow baptized, that unbelief is somehow brought into the domain of the church and is under the discipline of Christ. That form of unbelief lies to Christ, pretends to submit to Him, but is lying to Him. This unbelief feels that God can be worked, God can be gamed.

As Spurgeon said, „If you are listening to the devil don’t expect God to listen to you”. If you are listening to the devil, even if it’s the devils whispering, don’t expect God to listen to you, even if you’re shouting.If you’re loudly proclaiming to God that you love Him and serve Him, you praise Him, but you’re listening to the devil whispering and you’ve got a secret channel communication set up, don’t expect God to hear you.

The psalmist says it very plainly, „If I regard iniquity in my heart, if I’ve got a privileged place in my heart for iniquity, then don’t expect God to hear your prayer.”

Now, you may say, all of us stumble in many ways, you talked about us all having dross that has to be removed, none of us has arrived, we’re not at the day of the resurrection yet. Don’t we all have iniquity in our heart? The answer is yes, that’s true. We all  have remaining sinfulness in our hearts, but notice the psalmist doesn’t say , „I have iniquity in my heart, he’s assuming that we do.” He says here, „If I regard iniquity in my heart”, not „if I have sinned”. He’s saying, „If I regard sin, if I’m renting out a ‘room to sin’ in my heart, I would say- you could have this part of my heart, you can have this part of my life, of my soul, of my emotional piece”, you’re in effect saying to God, „You cannot have this piece”.  That’s what it means to regard iniquity in your heart.

If God were to mark iniquities as it says in another psalm- Who could stand? I am not talking here about absolute perfection. I am talking about silver ore that is willing to get in the furnace. If the whole thing is surrender to God in principle, the silver ore has dross in it. You don’t have to be perfect to begin the process. Of course we are imperfect, of course we sin, of course we have iniquities and things we struggle with. There’s a reason why at the beginning of our service we get on our knees and confess our sins. But, YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO COME HERE (church) REGARDING INIQUITY IN YOUR HEART.

That iniquity in your heart must not be a treasured possession. It must not be the sort of thing (about which) you say, „God, anything but this. I’ll do anything you want. I’ll go here, I’ll go there, I’ll sing this, I’ll say that, but you can’t have this lust. You can’t have this bitterness. You can’t take away this pettiness. You can’t take away this form of self centeredness”. That’s regarding iniquity in your heart.

Unbelief Thinks God Can Be Gamed from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Are You Really Responsible?

by Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ (James 1:13)

Charles Templeton, a newspaper reporter from Toronto, after a night of carousing and drunkenness, says that he had a conversion experience. By 1945 he was preaching with Billy Graham at Youth for Christ rallies around the U.S. and Europe. He began, however, to have doubts about the authority of Scripture and even began questioning God’s existence because of the suffering he saw from World War II. The last I heard he was ill, near death, and still an atheist. The sordid details of Roman Catholic priests who plied their paedophilia on young boys rightly incites anger and disgust, but are the victims of paedophilia justified in living ungodly lives and practicing atheism? And the alcoholic who blames his problems on his spouse or upbringing is failing to take responsibility for his sin. And what about your sinful propensities and practices? Who are you blaming?

In a culture that sues McDonalds for our own obesity we should not then be surprised that many blame God for their problems. James, the half-brother of Jesus, is moving us back to the holiness and powerful Christian living of Pentecost, a height from which the church had already fallen; and he does so by promoting the pathway to holiness, telling us to rejoice in every circumstance, to see God in every trial, but also to see the devil in every temptation. James tells us three important things in this verse.

First, temptation happens. No doubt about it! Adam was tempted (Gen. 3). So was David (2 Sam. 11). So was Jesus (Matt. 4). And so are all of us (1 Cor. 10:13). And these temptations come from the outside.

Second, when we face these temptations we must never say that God is the one tempting us, moving us, inciting, inducing, or seducing us to sin. God is never the culprit. By this I am not saying that he does not test us. He certainly put a severe test before Abraham (Gen. 22). Nor am I saying that evil is not part of his sovereign plan. He is the author of calamity (Isa. 45:6-7, Amos 3:6) and he raises up people and nations to do their evil and to bring judgment, all the while holding them responsible for their sinful actions (Jer. 51:20-26). Nor am I saying that God does not stir up people to do what they desire to do. Joseph came to see that while his brothers meant evil, God used it powerfully for good (Gen. 45:5-8). Nor am I saying that God does not give people over to their own wickedness so that they may be judged (Rom. 1:24ff).

And third, James tells us why we must never lay our sin on God. Why not? Because he is perfectly holy and therefore incapable of doing evil, including tempting or seducing anyone against his own will to sin. The three-fold declaration by the seraphim ought to make clear this truth (Isa. 6:1ff).

What does this mean, then? Quite emphatically, James is saying that you alone, not God or anyone else for that matter, are totally responsible for your sin. Adam tried to pass the buck to Eve and we have been trying to do the same thing ever since (Gen. 3:10-12). Understand this vital principle — you will never grow in gospel holiness until you acknowledge you alone, not God or anyone else, are responsible for your own sinful behaviour. This may be easy to say but it is very hard to practice daily. Until the alcoholic, for example, stops blaming his wife, friends, childhood trauma, or the devil’s tempting influence, then he will never make progress in holiness. Until the man given to outbursts of anger with his wife or children acknowledges that he is the culprit, not the tense circumstances of living with too little money, too little time; then he will make little progress in biblical holiness. Until the man addicted to porn quits blaming his miserable marriage or job, saying he only wants relief and a little pleasure; will he make progress in ‘casting out the demon’ of decadent passion. This is fundamental to gospel holiness. Quit passing the buck. Quit blaming God, your past, your circumstances, or the devil. I am not saying that these are not present, but you alone are responsible for your sinful actions.

So, what must you do? After the transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:2-8), when he came down from the mountain with Peter, James, and John, Mark tells us that they came upon a dispute between religious leaders and Jesus’ followers (Mark 9:14-29). A man had brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus and his disciples were unable to heal the boy. This boy had serious problems — the demons threw him to the ground, he foamed at the mouth, ground his teeth, stiffened out, and was periodically hurled by the demons into the fire or water. The desperate father no doubt lived in perpetual fear and vigilance, waiting for the day when the demons finally succeeded in killing his son and taking him to hell. What anguish, fear, and sorrow! When Jesus addressed the father he responded by saying, ‘If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!’ Jesus responds with a question of incredulity, ‘If you can!’ In essence he is saying, ‘What do you mean, „If I can.” Of course I can. All things are possible for him who believes.’ The father then uttered those famous words, ‘I do believe; help me in my unbelief.’ Jesus displayed his authority and power by casting out the demons, rendering the son completely healthy and fit.

You are like the man who says, ‘I do believe. Help me in my belief.’ On the one hand, you do believe you have a new heart that loves God and hates sin, that you have the righteousness of Jesus which cleanses you of all your filth, and that you have the holiness of Jesus by the Holy Spirit so that you may obey his commands (Ezek. 36:25-27). On the one hand you know you have the divine nature within you (2 Pet. 1:3-4) which means you have all you need pertaining to life and godliness. And on the one hand, you know God is faithful to finish the good work he began in you (Phil. 1:6). But on the other hand, you look at your own sinful thoughts, values, motives, attitudes, speech, and behaviour and know no good thing dwells in your flesh, that the wishing to do good is present in you but the doing of the good is not, that when you do the very thing you do not want to do, then it is no longer you doing it, but sin that dwells in you (Rom. 7:18-20).

What must you do with your sin? I am speaking in general terms; here’s what you need to do — just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him (Col. 2:6). You received Jesus’ righteousness by faith, being cleansed of all your sin. You simply believed, trusted in him, in what he did on the cross, to satisfy the Father’s wrath, to take away your sin and guilt. Like one who trusts his parachute completely to save him when he jumps from the plane, so you trusted in Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection. You put all your trust and confidence in Jesus’ redemptive work. Likewise, do the same with your holiness and sanctification. Simply ask Jesus for his holiness and watch him fill you with his presence and power that very moment.

The common root of unbelief in the brothers of Jesus and the Jewish crowds by John Piper

from Desiring God -Jan,2011

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John 7:1-24

The question I will try to answer from this text is: What is the common root that gives rise to such very different forms of unbelief in the brothers of Jesus, on the one hand, and in the Jewish crowds, on the other hand? I think this is exactly the question that the apostle John wants me to ask. I think he throws this question right in our face in verses 3–5, especially verse 5. He intentionally shocks us by telling us that Jesus’ brothers do not believe in him. And he shocks us even more by telling us what their unbelief looks like.

The Surprising Unbelief of Jesus’ Brothers

Jesus’ brothers are very excited about his miracles. They have seen some of them, and they want other people to see them as well. So they say to Jesus in verses 3­–5,

“Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.

Here’s the double shock: Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in him! This is James and Joseph and Simon and Judas (not Iscariot), mentioned in Matthew 13:55. His brother James would be one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and would write one of the books of the New Testament. The apostle John knows all this. He knows James became a great believer and leader in the church. So he knows this is shocking.

A Window into the Nature of Unbelief

But he is not aiming merely to shock. He is aiming to teach about unbelief. So he shocks us again and tells us that what James’ unbelief produces is a certain kind of excitement about Jesus’ miracles. Notice carefully the connection between their unbelief in verse 5 and their excitement in verses 3–4: “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” And why did they want Jesus to seek to be known openly and show himself as a miracle worker to the world? Verse 5: “Because not even his brothers believed in him.”

Now this is doubly shocking. If it had said, “We don’t think you can do these miracles; we think it’s all smoke and mirrors; we don’t want to be associated with you; we are embarrassed by what you are doing”—if they had said that, we would understand if Jesus said that they said it because they don’t believe. But they believe in his miracles. They believe he can do these things. They are amazed. They love it, and they want him to make an appearance in Jerusalem to win more amazed followers. And Jesus says that this comes from unbelief.

The Other Unbelief: The Jewish Crowds

So that’s one kind of unbelief in this text. The other kind seems to be almost the opposite. Many of the Jewish people in Jerusalem are not excited by Jesus’ miracles. They are threatened by them, and want to see him dead. Verse 1: “He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him.” And verse 19: “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” In response, they say he has a demon. Verse 20: The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”

Jesus says that their animosity comes from the miracle that he did back in chapter 5 when he healed the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years (John 5:5–9). He had healed him on the Sabbath. And somehow this unleashed a tidal wave of animosity. John 7:21–23:

Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well?”

So this is the second kind of unbelief—very different from the unbelief of the brothers. Or is it? They certainly look different. One is excited about his miracle working and wants it to be more public. The other is threatened by his miracles and wants them stopped, even it means killing Jesus. We immediately recognize the second response as unbelief. But Jesus wants us to see his brother’s kind of excitement as unbelief as well.

So my question is: How are they both unbelief? What is the common root?

Why It Matters

Before I try to answer that question, let me tell you why it matters. The short answer is that believing on Jesus is how we receive eternal life. John tells us in John 20:31 why he wrote this book—why he, for example, makes a big deal about what unbelief is in chapter 7—“These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Believing is how you get eternal life.

And we know he means “eternal life” because John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And we know that what eternal life means is that by believing in Jesus we escape from the wrath of God which is on us until we believe. John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Apart from Jesus, we are all under God’s wrath because we all have treated God with contempt by giving him so little of our attention and affection and obedience.

Only in Jesus: Eternal Life and Escape from Wrath

And we know that Jesus is the only one who can save us from the wrath of God and give us eternal life, because he is himself God in the flesh. “The Word was God  . . . and the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). He is the Messiah: “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26). And he is the Lamb of God: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

So he is the only one who can die in the place of millions of sinners (“I lay down my life for the sheep,” John 10:15), and rise from the dead (“Because I lay it my life for the sheep, I will take it up again,” John 10:17–18), so that anyone who receives him and believes on him will become a child of God (John 1:12) and have eternal life.

The Word of Christ for Unbelievers—And for Believers

Click here to read the rest of this sermon from Desiring God...

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