About tomdrion

Slave of Christ, husband, father, and pastor at GraceLife London

Should Christians keep the Sabbath? (#1)

“You’ll have a hard job persuading me that one of the ten commandments no longer applies!” It was a cordial argument between two preachers, but that was my response about 15 years ago when my friend told me he no longer believed Sunday was the Sabbath.

Let me put my cards on the table: I now don’t believe Christians should keep the Sabbath. Either on Saturday, or Sunday… and this is part one in a short series to explain why. I do, however, believe that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, and that it has real significance for Christians. That, however will have to wait till later in the series. For now, let’s look at a few reasons why Christians do not have to keep the Sabbath:

The Sabbath was NOT a Creation Command

This is the argument I used to make: “God instituted the idea of a sabbath rest at creation. It was a creation ordinance. That means it has timeless significance, right?” Well, actually, no:

  1. To be a creation command, it would actually have to be a command. But it’s not. Search and see, but you won’t find one word of command in Genesis 2:1-3. It’s just a description of what God said and did.
  2. There is no mention of the word Sabbath until after the Exodus.
  3. There is no evidence of anyone keeping the seventh day as holy or anything like it, until after it was introduced in Exodus 16.
  4. The sabbath restrictions were all meaningless to Adam & Eve, who received the creation ordinances. Think about it: no toilsome work to rest from, no need to bear burdens, as food was abundant and accessible. No fires to light, no cooking to be done, and no need to stop one day out of seven and delight in God, since that was something you did every day!
  5. Nehemiah 9:14 places the moment that God “made known” His holy Sabbath to Israel in the same time period as their sojourn at Sinai. The implication is that they didn’t know about it before that period, which means it was not a creation ordinance.
  6. The language used in Exodus 16, where Moses first talks about the seventh day being “a sabbath” seems to be introducing something new to them. He uses the indefinite form that we translate with the word “a” several times (Exodus 16:23, 25, 26) before announcing to the people that the LORD had given them “the Sabbath” (Exodus 16:29). If they already knew about the Sabbath command, it seems strange to start by talking about the seventh day as being “a” sabbath. All this seems to confirm the reality that it was not until after the Exodus that God introduced the Sabbath to the people of Israel, and thus it was not a creation ordinance.

Helpful? Well there’s a take-home point from all this:

  • Not every law is eternal. We cannot take laws that God introduced later, and read them back into an earlier period.

For example, even with laws like the prohibition of murder, which were written into human conscience long before they were ever written on stone by the finger of God, there is a development of that law over time. God declared to Noah and his family that if someone takes another man’s life, his own life must be taken. However, much earlier when Cain murdered Abel, God prevented anyone from taking Cain’s life. Much later, when God expounded His law to Israel, the prohibition was expanded to include inflicting injury that did not result in death, and relevant penalties were prescribed. This is just one example of how God’s law was developed over time, and it would be wrong to read those laws back into the early chapters of Genesis and claim that God, or Adam and Eve should have executed Cain.

Perhaps a more striking example is with respect to marriage. In Leviticus 18:9 sibling marriage is prohibited. Clearly this was a new law that was prohibiting an act that was not previously sinful, in and of itself. Certainly not for Cain! God introduced further law at the time he chose, and we cannot read that law back into the early chapters of Genesis.

With all that said, it’s not so hard to accept that God didn’t establish the Sabbath as a law in Genesis 2. Until He made the laws in Exodus, there was no law prohibiting any activity on the seventh day, or prescribing a day of rest. The only hint people had was that God blessed the day and made the day “holy”—but we have no record of how much that was communicated to them, or how much of it was passed on. It’s obvious that we can only speculate about how the people of God in the thousands of years covered by Genesis responded to what they knew about God’s blessing on that day. They may have chosen to keep the seventh day special, but they may not have done so. The point I am making here is that whether they rested or not, it would not have been transgression for them to work on the seventh day. That is clear from Romans 4:15 “where there is no law there is no transgression,” and Romans 5:13 “sin is not counted where there is no law.”

Where the idea of a “sabbath” came from is lost in the mists of time and debated by scholars unable to prove their case. Unless we want to add our own speculation to Scripture, we should be careful not say that the Sabbath was a creation ordinance! It might be possible to talk about example. It could even be possible to talk about principle, but the Sabbath was not a creation command.

The Sabbath was a Covenant Command

Why did God give the Sabbath commandment to Israel? Well, for a start, it was to make sure they rested one day in seven to allow them to be refreshed and worship Him: Obviously, God’s plan for a seven-day week was his original design in Genesis 1-2, and it works. All other attempts to change this design have failed, just ask a historian. If people before the giving of the Ten Commandments had known Genesis 2 and taken a principle of rest from God’s example in creation, that would have been good for them. By giving the law to Israel in Exodus, God ensured his chosen people would get the rest they needed and an opportunity to focus on Him and take time for worship. Exodus 23:12 makes it clear that God was concerned that his people rested and were “refreshed” —and that included their servants, and even their animals and the “alien” or sojourner who were also not allowed to work. God legislated to ensure his original design for rest and worship was not an optional extra for his chosen people.

If you were to stop there however, with the principle of rest for worship, you would miss the explicit purpose that God gave when He made the Sabbath part of the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath command, was a covenant command: it was part of the covenant, but it was also the sign of the covenant.

The Sabbath as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant

The command not to work on the seventh day was a very visible outward indicator of whether an Israelite wanted to participate in God’s covenant with His people. It was something that would serve to remind them of the covenant they had made with God, and to remind them of the rest from which they had been excluded, because of sin. It also served as an obvious indicator of their participation in God’s covenant with his people Israel.

Let’s break this down:

What is a sign in respect to a covenant? When God made a covenant with humanity after the flood, He set the sign of his covenant in the clouds, so that we could know that when He saw the bow (Genesis 9:8-17), He would in effect be reminded of the covenant He had made never to destroy the whole world again in a flood. When we see the rainbow, we can know that God won’t forget to keep His promise! The sign works in both directions but it’s interesting that God specifically talks about its affect on Him, so that when we see it, we are reminded that He is also reminded!

When God made a covenant with Abraham, the sign of the covenant was circumcision (Genesis 17:11). God would give Abraham offspring, a land and blessing (Genesis 12:1-3, 7), and He only gave Abraham one command: “Every male throughout all your generations… shall surely be circumcised,” (Genesis 17:12-13). In this way, the sign of the covenant was a very physical reminder to them that God had made a covenant with them. It was also a very obvious sign to God that Abraham’s descendants were party to his covenant. It’s no wonder then that if anyone refused circumcision, that person was to be cut off from the people of God (Genesis 17:14). By refusing to be circumcised, they were in effect rejecting God’s covenant in its entirety, and so circumcision was the sign of their participation in the covenant God had made. Circumcision served as a very real reminder of the covenant God had made, and their inclusion in it.

The same can be said for the Sabbath with the Mosaic covenant given at Sinai. Exodus 31:12-18 is pivotal. Notice three things:

First, Sabbath keeping would be a very real reminder of the covenant God had made with Israel. In Exodus 31:13 God says that it is their keeping of the Sabbaths that is a sign between Him and them, and it was to remind them that He sanctifies them. Thus, as they kept the Sabbath, they would see the sign, and they would be reminded that God chose them and made a covenant with them, setting them apart for Himself from all the nations around them. God also would see the sign, and in the same sense as with the rainbow and the Noahic covenant, God would see it and “remember” the covenant.

Next, just as with circumcision, if anyone broke the Sabbath, they were to be cut off from the people of God (Exodus 31:14).

Lastly, the Sabbath itself would be a sign to them: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel…” (Exodus 31:17). The Sabbath was a law. It stood in the middle of the Ten Commandments that form the heart of the Mosaic covenant. The reality of that law — its very existence would perpetually be a sign to both God and to the Israelites of the covenant that He’d made with them. If they didn’t keep it wholly holy, their failure to keep the Sabbath would remind them of God’s covenant with them which included blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

Technical moment: It’s highly unfortunate that the ESV chooses to translate the Hebrew word kî as “that” rather than “for” (as per almost all other translations). This gives the impression, especially in the absence of a comma, that the sabbath is simply a reminder that God created in six days and rested on the seventh. It is true that rarely kî can be used “to introduce a clause which explains and fulfils the idea of the principal sentence” (HALOT), but this totally fails to explain the language of the sign being “forever” and “between me and you” just as with the Noahic covenant (see Genesis 9:8-17). It also fails to recognise that this is a direct repetition of the language of Exodus 20:11 “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth.” It seems both bizarre and to me, incomprehensible that the ESV chose to translate kî in Exodus 31:17 as “that,” when every Hebrew speaker would be hearing a repetition of the exact language of the Ten Commandments at this point, and not interpreting the kî as introducing a clause to explain what the sign was.
For Hebrew readers who want to compare the two:
כִּי־שֵׁ֣שֶׁת יָמִ֗ים עָשָׂ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ Exodus 31:17
כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ Exodus 20:11

My point, overall, is simple: the Sabbath command was given as part of the Mosaic Covenant, but it was also given as the sign of the covenant. Since the Mosaic Covenant, was an agreement made by God with the people of Israel, and the Sabbath command was inextricably bound up with that covenant, the Sabbath command was a covenant command, and thus its purpose and significance stand, or fall, with the Mosaic Covenant.

Helpful? Well, here’s another take home point to ponder:

  • Not every law is universal. The Mosaic Covenant was made specifically with the people of Israel to set them apart from the other nations.

I’m not inventing that. God said so. Let’s think about that:

First, when He was about to give Israel the covenant He spoke to the elders of the people in advance: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” (Exodus 19:5-6).

Next, when God gave the Ten Commandments, He prefaced them with the words, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out fo the Land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” (Exodus 20:2)—effectively addressing the Ten Commandments specifically to the people of Israel.

Then, when the people had all heard the Ten Commandments from the mountain, from the voice of God himself (Deuteronomy 4:12-13), and the covenant had been formally made by God with the people (Exodus 24) and sealed with blood sacrifice (Exodus 24:8), Moses went back up the mountain to receive more detailed exposition on the covenant from God, and for God to give him the Ten Commandments written in stone with his own finger. Before he came down from the mountain, God had some last words of instruction for Moses, and exhorted him to make sure the Israelites kept the sign of the covenant (Exodus 31:12-18). It seems strange to us that God would close his time with Moses by telling him to “speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths,'” etc. However, as we’ve seen, Sabbath observance was to be the sign of the covenant, lying at the heart of the Ten Commandments, so it does make sense.

However, this is a remarkable passage because in a few short verses, God makes it clear He is speaking specifically to Israel: “You are to speak to the people of Israel” (31:13); “this is a sign between me and you” (31:13); “it is holy for you” (31:14); “therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath observing the Sabbath throughout their generations as a covenant forever,” (31:16); “It is a sign between me and the people of Israel” (31:17).

Much later, God inspired a Psalmist to teach the people of Israel to sing that, “(God) declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules,” (Psalm 147:19-20). You could say that God effectively said the same thing to his people in Deuteronomy 4:5-8, and Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

My point? God made the Mosaic Covenant specifically and exclusively with the people of Israel. His law was not universal. The Mosaic Covenant was not made with every nation. The Sabbath therefore, as the sign of the Mosaic Covenant, was not a law for every nation. Instead, it had a purpose within the covenant, as the sign of the covenant God made with Israel, and Israel alone. The Sabbath, was not a creation command, but it was a covenant command, and as such, it is not for Christians to keep, since we are not under the Mosaic Covenant.

Now, someone will object that Christ did not come to abolish the law. Surely, they’ll say, the Ten Commandments make up the moral law, and that continues unchanged in the New Testament era, right? Surely, it’s only the civil and ceremonial aspects of the law which have been set aside for as Christians, right?

In part 2, we’ll look at the question of whether or not it’s possible to divide up the Mosaic Covenant, and the relationship all this has to the New Covenant and to Christians.

Proverbs 41 – The Model Man

What does a Proverbs 41 guy look like?
Just what does a Proverbs 41 guy look like?

You’ve heard of the Proverbs 31 Woman… well, what about the blokes?

You may not have thought about it, but pretty much the whole of Proverbs is addressed to Solomon’s son, teaching him how to become the man who fears the Lord.

That said, it’s possible to sift through the book of Proverbs, and pick out those which particularly deal with the qualities of a good man, so with due care to mention that my tongue is at least partly in my cheek, and I am NOT adding to Holy Writ, here is proverbs 41:

41 Qualities of a Good Man in the Book of Proverbs

An excellent husband who can find?

He is more precious than jewels.

The heart of his wife trusts in him,

and she will have no lack of gain.

He does her good, and not harm,

all the days of his life:

He:

  1. Speaks straight – Prov. 2:12 (not perverse speech, 6:12 not crooked speech)
  2. Takes pleasure in wisdom, not doing wrong – Prov. 10:23
  3. Doesn’t talk people down, or join in when others do – Prov 11:12
  4. Is kind – Prov. 11:17
  5. Is good and favoured by God – Prov. 12:2
  6. Has good sense, and not a twisted mind – Prov. 12:8
  7. Is not weighed down by Anxiety, seeks “a good word” – Prov. 12:25
  8. Is not a backslider – Prov. 14:14
  9. Doesn’t have a quick temper or evil devices – Prov. 14:17
  10. Doesn’t have a hot temper – is slow to anger – Prov. 15:18
  11. Takes no joy in folly – but is a man on a mission – Prov. 15:21
  12. Plots no evil & measures his speech – Prov. 16:27
  13. Is honest, and doesn’t gossip – Prov. 16:28
  14. Is not violent – Prov. 16:29
  15. Has a cool spirit – Prov. 17:27
  16. Has a humble heart – Prov. 18:12
  17. Is a good friend – not just one of the guys – Prov. 18:24
  18. Has steadfast love & truthfulness – Prov. 19:22
  19. Keeps aloof from strife / quarreling – Prov. 20:3
  20. Is faithful – Prov. 20:6
  21. Is not in love with pleasure – Prov. 21:17
  22. Considers his own ways, doesn’t fake boldness – Prov. 21:29
  23. Doesn’t live off credit – Prov. 22:7
  24. Isn’t given to anger or wrathful – Prov. 22:24, 29:22
  25. Sees value in developing skill – Prov. 22:29
  26. Is wise / knowledgeable – Prov. 24:5
  27. Is not a sluggard – but demonstrates diligence & industry Prov. 24:30-34
  28. Doesn’t over promise & under-deliver – Prov. 25:14
  29. Has self-control – Prov. 25:28
  30. Isn’t wise in his own eyes – Prov. 26:12
  31. Doesn’t cover his deceit by saying “I was joking” – Prov. 26:18-19
  32. Is not quarrelsome – Prov. 26:21
  33. Is faithful – Prov. 27:8
  34. Survives the test of praise – Prov. 27:21
  35. Understands justice – Prov. 28:5
  36. Isn’t hasty to get rich – but faithful (in his work) – Prov. 28:20
  37. Isn’t stingy – Prov. 28:22
  38. Doesn’t rob his parents and say “that is no transgression” – Prov. 28:24
  39. Is not hasty in his words – Prov. 29:20
  40. Finds unjust men abominable – Prov. 29:27
  41. Doesn’t think he’s arrived – Prov. 30:2-3

Are you ready? Busy is no excuse!

are you ready

The last three week’s have been busy. I’ve been in California starting work on a doctoral program at my Alma Mater, and —at last— it’s time to go home.

My work here is almost done, and I have to catch that plane, but there are so many loose ends I need to tie up.

Will I be ready in time? Either way I have to go.

Revelation 22:12 contain some of the very last words of Jesus Christ to mankind:

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”

Quite simply, are you ready?

Either way, when he comes, it’s time to go.

For those who have rejected his rule, it will be time to face their judgement.

For everyone who will repent of sin, turning from it to God for forgiveness, trusting only in his sacrifice on the cross to cleanse them and make them righteous… it will be the day of undeserved reward!

Busy or not, either way, we all have to go.

Loving the Lost (With the Gospel)

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What would you say about a church that lost its love for the lost?

Many churches today would claim to be all about loving people. If you were to ask what it means to express that love, you might be surprised how little you would hear about telling the good news to lost people!

If we’re going to show Biblical love for this world, we need to have a crystal clear understanding of two key truths:

lost at sea with stars2

1. People are lost.

Jesus said it plainly, that he came to seek and to save the lost. Put another way, he said he came to call sinners to repentance. The reality the Bible so clearly teaches is that every sinner is lost–cut off from fellowship with God by sin, and heading for a lost eternity–the punishment prepared for everyone who lives as a rebel against their Creator. That’s lost!

It’s a little bit tragic then, when churches try to ‘love’ people by simply being nice to them, or by trying to meet their physical needs. If Christians actually understand God’s message of salvation from sin through Christ, it’s spectacularly unloving to merely meet people’s physical needs, and not warn them of their danger and tell them the gospel.

No one is saved by joining our group!

If people could be saved by liking Christians and wanting to be part of the church, then it would make sense for churches to concentrate on being as likeable as possible. But they can’t. To be saved, people need to realise they’re lost-rebels, and repent, believing in the gospel message. No one is saved by joining our group!

2. Lost people need the good news.

The greatest need for the people of the world today, is the same as the greatest need for the people of the world in Christ’s day. Poverty has always existed, but Jesus didn’t tell the church to go fix poverty. Sickness has always cursed the world, but Christ did not commission the church to “Go into all the world and build hospitals in every nation.”

Let’s be clear. The greatest need the world faces is its lost-ness, and the one, unchangeable commission given to the church (Part three of our threefold purpose for the church in this series) is to preach the gospel.

Makepovhistory_edin_rjl

Don’t get me wrong, when hearts are changed by the gospel, hospitals will be built. There is nothing wrong with wanting to build a hospital to bless people–in fact, it’s all good–it’s just not the purpose of the church. True, it may flow from the work of the church, but the mission of the church has always been to deal with the greatest need, and that’s the gospel. All the social change we could wish for is intrinsically linked to the transformation of individual selfish human hearts.

making poverty history is not the goal of the church, but when selfishness and laziness are history, poverty gives way to industry and generosity

Viewed this way, making poverty history is not the goal of the church, but when selfishness and laziness are history, poverty gives way to industry and generosity. Individuals transformed by the gospel will always want to relieve poverty and sickness – which is all good, but when churches allow social projects to displace the preaching of the gospel as their primary focus, the greatest need of mankind is left unmet.

Make_Poverty_History_band_plastic

Thankfully one Day, poverty will indeed be history, but in the meantime the mission of the church is to rescue lost souls from an eternity of misery.

Let’s not miss our mission.

 

The Lord is my …

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"New Thought" prosperity preacher - forerunner of Joel Osteen & Co.

“New Thought” prosperity preacher – forerunner of Joel Osteen & Co.

Ps 23 (The Prosperity Version)

The Lord is my banker; my credit is good.
He maketh me to lie down in the consciousness of omnipresent abundance;
He giveth me the key to his strongbox.
He restoreth my faith in his riches;
He guideth me in the paths of prosperity for His name’s sake.
Yea though I walk in the very shadow of debt,
I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy silver and Thy gold, they secure me.
Thou preparest a way for me in the presence of the collector;
The fillest my wallet with plenty; my measure runneth over.
Surely goodness and plenty will follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall do business in the name of the Lord forever.

OK – so you can hardly believe it… but yes, that was published in a book about prosperity by Charles Fillmore who died in 1948.

Shocking? Yes. Blasphemy? Yes.  Ahead of his time? Definitely!

 

I decree and declare – a lot of hot air!

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I decree and declare, a lot of hot air, and I wonder why God doesn’t answer my prayer. I have asked him for riches He must surely agree That he ought now to do what is best now for me. … Continue reading

“Merry” Christmas? Bah humbug!

“Merry Christmas…” “Happy Christmas…” Will somebody please tell the world that it’s not going to happen this year… just like it didn’t happen last year!

Forgive me for playing Scrooge for a moment, but it is just a bit ironic that while more people than ever are wishing each other happiness associated with Christmas, practically no one here in Britain seems to know anything of the joy that God designed in the Christmas message!

I’m not exactly in favour of saying it, but “Happy Holidays” is at least a bit more accurate a wish for most people. All the vast majority can expect over the next few days is a short lived blast of the pleasures of food, drink and family-fun.

The harsh reality, of course, is that all the festivities in the world don’t actually solve our problems, and while postponing them for a few days can feel good at the time, we can’t escape the mess we live in. When we surface after Christmas, all the best gifts that this world can offer leave us wondering if it’s all just glitter and ribbons on an empty cardboard box.

“Good news of great joy”

When you hear that the angel announced to the shepherds that Jesus’ birth was “good news of great joy that would be for all the people,” you might be forgiven for wondering what happened to all the joy!

The tragedy is that our generation has missed the joy of the Christmas message simply because it’s almost completely lost the original Christmas message that God designed for our joy.

The double tragedy is that the message is not difficult to grasp. Understanding it is as easy as understanding two words.

It’s my prayer that this Christmas will be a truly happy one for many here in Britain as people come to understand this message of joy!

May this Christmas message from GraceLife London bless you in that way as these two words that hold the key to understanding the first Christmas are unfolded for you.

Happy viewing!

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Are you forgetting your CCTV?

Like the absent minded arsonists in this video, most people seem to forget that their movements are being constantly recorded and will one day be used as evidence against them.

How terrible it will be to be in the dock and have the video of your own inbuilt CCTV replayed. There will be no excuses possible, and no question about the verdict, just the crushing realisation that you’ve done what you knew was so terribly wrong, and now you’ve been caught, exposed and are about to be punished. 

Thankfully God offers us all the most remarkable terms for all who’ll accept them:

– Repent of your sin, confessing it and turning from it now, before you’re brought to His court.
– Beg Him for his forgiveness, and he takes the punishment on Himself, placing it upon his Son who died in the place of sinners!

Now that’s quite an offer, considering what we all have recorded!

 

 

Effective Prayer, Honest Work and a Clean Conscience

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Have you ever wondered about the role of your work ethic and your conscience in enabling effective prayer?

Definitely you’ve experienced this: that awful moment when you realise that you need God’s help, but haven’t been doing what you should.

Like the beggars we are, we go back to the throne of grace at such times, cringing perhaps that we need to cry for another demonstration of God’s unparalleled mercy… but conscious all along that we also probably need his discipline if we’re ever going to turn from our repeated failures to do what is right.

Thankfully God is unimaginably patient and knows we’re just dust, and if you don’t yet know the delights of Psalm 103 for cringing beggars, let me encourage you to go there now!

But God does discipline, and that can include unanswered prayer. No doubt you’ve seen a striking difference in this respect in some Christians lives. There are those individuals that stand out from the crowd, people who seem to be striving in everything they do to behave in that noble, honourable, excellent way that leaves them with a clean conscience, and God seems to especially attend to their prayers.

By contrast perhaps, when you want to pray, you immediately call to mind all the time you waste, your lack of prayer and study, failure to visit the sick, remember those in prison… and the list goes on.

Can you really expect God to answer your prayers?

“Well yes,” you say, and you call to mind the many times God has helped you after your cries for mercy just before you step out again to serve him, in faith and dependence on his grace. Yet in the back of your mind you know that there is a connection between our godliness and the effectiveness of our prayers, after all “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much,” is there in James 5.

Another passage that deserves more attention is Hebrews 13:18-19 where there’s a clear connection between expecting prayer to be effective, and the conscience of the one asking for prayer!

“Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.” (Heb 13:18-19 ESV)

Pray for us, says the writer to the Hebrews, because we are sure that we have a clean conscience… since/in that we’re desiring to behave honourably in all things. What he then goes on to show is the most amazing confidence in the effectiveness of their prayers, fully expecting an earlier visit to them than could otherwise be hoped for!

What if we emphasised God’s amazing grace to beggars like us to the point that we ignore the reality that God disciplines those he loves, and that his discipline can include unanswered prayer? What if there was something we needed to do in order to be able to know answered prayer?

Would that make our answered prayers something received by works and nullify God’s grace? Not at all! In just the same way when we initially repent of our sin, it is only by grace that we’re saved, through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, and God himself has to grant the repentance to us… yet there is a clear connection between our repentance and our salvation! When we delay our repentance, God delays our conversion! If we refuse to repent, we will not be saved.

So can we conclude that as long as we refuse to deal with the items on our conscience, God may just refuse to answer our prayers?

If so – there’s a clear connection between our work ethic, our conscience, and effective prayer.