You Are What You Pray

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We are familiar with the phrase, “you are what you eat,” but did you know you are what you pray? Our prayers connect us with God, but they also reveal our priorities. The things we prioritize, we pursue, and the things we purse we become. If you thank God for your food, you become grateful. If you pray for the safety of your friends and family, you become caring. If you pray for unbelievers to come to Christ, you become evangelistic.

Jesus focused on his mission and his followers throughout his earthly ministry. It shouldn’t surprise us that when he prayed just before his arrest and crucifixion, he prayed a selfless, mission-focused prayer. The prayer recorded in John 17:1-26 has been labeled many ways but it was Jesus’ last words before he was taken away and killed. In it, Jesus prayed for three distinct things.

1. JESUS PRAYED FOR HIS MISSION TO BE COMPLETE (v. 1-5).

Jesus came to earth with a mission to live a perfect life and die a perfect death so that he could save the world and share his life with his followers. If Jesus didn’t finish his mission his disciples wouldn’t have a mission of their own or a message to share. Jesus knew how important his mission was.

Notice three principles from this section of Jesus’ prayer that helped Him finish. First, Jesus was God-centered (v. 1). Prayer is more than a task, it is a relationship. Second, Jesus has an eternal focus. Eternity begins at conversion, progresses with Christian growth and discipleship, and continues on into heaven. Third, Jesus was totally surrendered. Jesus gave us his own will so that He could accomplish the will of the Heavenly Father.

2. JESUS PRAYED FOR THE CHARACTER OF HIS FOLLOWERS (v. 6-17).

Jesus prayed for three things in regards to the character of his followers. First, he prayed that they would be kept in God’s name (v. 1). Someone’s name usually represents their character in the bible. Jesus prayed that his followers would be kept close and their character would mirror his own.

Second, Jesus also prayed that his followers would be kept from the evil one (v. 15). Jesus acknowledged that Satan’s destructive influence in the world. Jesus prayed that his followers would be protected from that influence. Satan may be a bully, but he should not be feared.

Third, Jesus prayed that his followers be set apart in the truth of God (v. 17). God’s Word should have a prominent place in the lives of Christ’s followers. There are five practices today that allow God’s Word to permeate your life: hearing the bible, reading the bible, studying the bible, memorizing the bible, and meditating on the bible.

3. JESUS PRAYED FOR THE MISSION OF HIS FOLLOWERS (v. 6-26).

Unfortunately, there are many people today who do not finish their God-given mission. The average church loses 3% of its membership each year. Thousands of pastors leave the ministry each year before retirement.

Jesus prayed that his follower would all be one (v. 11). Solidarity is just as important for individual local churches as it is for the Church as a whole. Unity is more than just doing stuff together, its “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).

Jesus also prayed that his follower would be with him where he was (v. 24). He has just announced that he would be leaving his disciples behind while he went to prepare a place for them in heaven (John 14). Even though he would be leaving, he wanted his followers to be with him eventually so they would see his glory.

Jesus prayed for himself and his followers because you are what you pray. His prayer flowed from his priorities and passions. What do your prayers say about your priorities and passions? Are you working to complete your God-given mission? Are you developing a Christ-like character? Are you contributing to the oneness of your church?

Like in many other area of life, you and I have good intentions. But if you genuinely want to make good on of those good intentions, start with prayer.

Everything Changes

chuttersnap-139486-unsplashSome people believe that Jesus was mild-mannered, politically correct, and tame, like a supernatural Mr. Rogers. Jesus is God and God is love so they envision Jesus as eternally passive. This misconception keeps people from getting to know the real Jesus.

The Apostle John includes a story that emphasizes the passionate side of Christ’s nature – the story of Jesus clearing out the temple in John 2:13-25. This incident highlights the depth of the struggle between Jesus and the religious establishment. Jesus didn’t come into the world so he could politely fit in with was going on at the time. In these verses, we learn that Jesus came to change the religious establishment and our religious experiences because Jesus came to change everything. In this passage, he challenges us in three ways

1. JESUS CHALLENGES OUR SELF-SERVING FORMS OF WORSHIP (2:13-17)

Passover was about to happen, and Jews from all over the Roman empire were flocking to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. At that time, the temple was more like a marketplace than a place of worship. There were people selling oxen, sheep, & doves to be sacrificed. There were people changing money so that Jews could pay their annual temple tax with Jewish coins that didn’t have pagan symbols on them.

When Jesus arrived at the temple he made a whip from the food or bedding offered to the animals and drove the merchants & the moneychangers from the temple along with their animals. He dumped out their coins and overturned their tables. He told them to stop taking advantage of “His Father’s house.”

If we’re not careful, our expressions of worship and even religious institutions can become all about us: our stability, our benefits, and our preferences. When we do, we minimize Christ and miss the point of the Gospel.

2. JESUS CHALLENGES OUR ASSUMPTIONS OF WHAT IS POSSIBLE (2:18-22)

The Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign of his authority to have done something so outrageous. Instead of showing them a new sign (he had already performed many), he told them about the destruction and rebuilding of the temple. The Jews thought he was talking about the temple they were standing in, but he was talking about the temple of his body. He was predicting His death, burial, and resurrection.

Christ’s resurrection from the dead redefines what is possible. Miracles like turning water into wine, healing people, multiplying food, walking on water, or raising someone else from the dead are amazing, but bringing yourself back from the dead is barrier-shattering.

You may be facing an “impossible” situation. Maybe it’s an overwhelming loss or an unforgivable sin? Maye it’s a marriage that seems beyond repair or a sickness that seems incurable? There’s hope in the most difficult situations in life because situations can change, people can change because Jesus changes everything.

3. JESUS CHALLENGES OUR EASY BELIEVEISM (2:23-25)

The Apostle John is writing from a post-resurrection perspective – after Jesus has come back from the dead. He tells us that the disciples were urged to faith by recalling what Jesus had said before he was crucified. There were other Jews that seemed to believe in Jesus, but their faith was based on the signs that Jesus performed, not who He was.

Jesus was not fooled by the shallow circumstantial faith of the Jews. Jesus knows the fickle and sinful nature of the human heart, that’s why he came in the first place.

“Easy believeism” is a term that was coined to describe those who claim faith in Christ, but who never have a change of heart about Jesus. They want Jesus to be their Savior, but not their Lord. They only “believe” when they are need something from God.

Everything changes because Jesus changes everything.

Jesus is not content to stand on the sidelines and watch people misuse His Father’s House or squander their lives. While he would never leave a true believer, He distances Himself from people that worship their own religious experiences or the institution of the church instead of Him. Make Jesus the center of your life and be open to change, because Jesus changes everything.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

 

Devotional Thoughts for Leaders: Are You Carrying a Bronze Shield?

bronze sheildAre you carrying a bronze shield?

Revitalization is tough.  When difficult times come into an organization, there is a temptation to ignore reality and pretend things are just fine.  That’s what Judah’s king, Rehoboam, did. When his nation fell on hard times, Rehoboam went into denial and built a set of bronze shields.

To understand the significance of this, we need to rehearse a little Old Testament history.  In 1 Kings 14:21, we learn that Rehoboam was the son of Solomon.  Because Rehoboam acted foolishly during his coronation, God split the nation of Israel and only allowed Rehoboam to rule over the much smaller nation of Judah. As king, Rehoboam took evil to a whole new level, leading his people to do everything that the Canaanites had done that had gotten them kicked out of the Promised Land (v. 22-24).

When Solomon was king, he had so much gold, that silver was worthless.  Solomon lined his palace with 200 large and 300 small golden shields that eventually became a symbol of Israel’s prosperity and security.  These shields were passed down to Rehoboam, but not for long.  In Rehoboam’s 5th year as king, God allowed Egypt to defeated Judah and take away all their treasure, include the golden shields.  This loss signaled the end of an era and the loss of God’s blessing and protection (v. 25-26).

Instead of facing reality and admitting his sin, Rehoboam had a set of bronze shields made to replace the golden shields that were lost.  In order to show that things were just as spectacular as they were in his father’s day, Rehoboam had his palace guards carry the bronze shields out in public whenever he went to the temple.  But when they returned to the palace, they put the “show” shields away (v. 26-28).

Rehoboam will forever be remembered as the king who spilt the nation of Israel and lost Solomon’s treasure.  His legacy should be an eternal warning to Christian leaders and even churches today who construct and carry a “bronze shield.”  Instead of being open and honest about their present difficulties – and changing – some people would rather recreate things that were successful in the past so they can preserve their reputation.  Ministries, programs, or emphases can all become “bronze shields” when they become excuses for going through the motions.

Here are 3 warning signs you or your church is carrying a “bronze shield.”

  1. Consequences, conclusions, and change are avoided.
  2. Energy is expending to recreate the past.
  3. Things that are done in public are not repeated in private.

Does that describe you or your church?  If so, are you willing to put down your “bronze shields” for a chance to be restored?