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Obedience, Prayer, and Proclaiming the Word B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
December 9, 2020 3:00 am

Obedience, Prayer, and Proclaiming the Word B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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You're going to grow spiritually as you see God's power on display and prayer puts you into that experience. The more faithful your prayer life, the faster your spiritual growth because God will be doing great and mighty things which you know not and your expanse of confidence in His power will increase your spiritual maturity. Watch a western movie and you might hear the sheriff tell a criminal to stop in the name of the law.

And if the bad guy surrenders, you can be sure he understood that the name of the law carries meaning, weight, authority. Along those lines, the name of the Lord has far greater implications than you might suspect, especially for your prayers. On today's Grace to You, John MacArthur helps you understand the fundamentals of prayer as well as how to lead others to Christ.

It's part of his study called Back to Basics. And with that, here's John. Now look at John chapter 14 and verses 13 and 14. And whatever you shall ask in My name, that will I do.

Now listen, we'll stop there for a minute. What does it mean in My name? Well if you study the Bible, you find out that anytime you see the name of God or the name of Christ, that that is a concept that embodies all that He is. My name is I am that I am. God's name is the embodiment of all that He is.

And Christ's name is the embodiment of all that He is. And what he's saying is that when you ask consistently with who I am and what I will, I'll do it. He's simply saying when you pray in accord with My will, you see? When you pray in accord with all that He is, now, you know, you can be careful about that next time you pray and say, Lord, I'd like to have a new car. Lord, I just don't like the one I've got.

I'd like to have a new car. And this I ask because I believe this is the will of, no, no, I probably wouldn't do too well. Or, Lord, I just, I've got this husband, Lord. I don't know how to word this, Lord. Is there any way I can get another one? This I ask because I believe this is the, no, Lord, I have this kid. You know, Lord, I've got four and three are great. Whose kid is this?

Is there any way? This I ask. No, it doesn't make it. It's like the little kid who prayed God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy, and God, I'd like a new bicycle. And his mommy said, God isn't deaf.

He said, I know, but Grandma's in the next room and she is hard of hearing. Now we're trying to con God, see, force God's hand, bind Him by a misconstrued idea of what His promise meant. Now you see, to pray in my name really limits our prayers.

I can pray, oh God, I pray that in this situation, this dear brother who is ill may grow to be so spiritually, may see a new vision of You, may have his heart enriched in the midst of his trial. This I ask because I believe it to be the will of Jesus Christ, right? That's consistent with who he is and what you know his will is. Now beloved, that's precisely what it means to pray in the Spirit. Praying in the Spirit is praying consistent with the Spirit of God's will. And the Spirit of God is always praying in the life of the believer, always. In fact, Romans 8 says that we know not what to pray for as we ought, so the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. In other words, in a non-verbal language between the Spirit in us and the Father on the throne, He always prays for us. And His prayer is always answered because He knows the mind of the Father. Now watch. If you pray according to His will, He will do it in order that He may be glorified. Now listen. You want to know something? He might do it anyway even if you didn't pray.

That's right. If it was His will to do it, He'd do it anyway. But you know something? You wouldn't have the opportunity to see Him do it. You wouldn't be in on it. Thus, you wouldn't give Him glory.

Illustration. If somebody comes to a prayer meeting and they stand up and they say, oh, I had the most wonderful thing happen. You know, this lady that I've been sharing Christ with, I've been praying for her for years and this week we knelt together in my house and she opened her heart and she invited Jesus Christ to come in. And I'm so thrilled now she's a believer. And here she is with us tonight.

Thank you for praying for her for these last few months. And immediately when that happens, ripples are going to go through that and somebody is going to say, oh praise the Lord, they're going to get big grins on their face, oh Lord, thank you. You know who those people are going to be? They're going to be the ones who are doing what? Praying for her. And then there's going to be some people sitting back there going, hmm, staring around, totally indifferent. You know why?

They weren't involved. You see, the reason to pray is not to force God's hand. The reason to pray is so that you can be in on what He's doing because then you can join the hallelujah chorus, you see, and praise Him. There used to be a fellow in our church and his name was Frank. And Frank came up to me in the patio one time and he said, John, he said, I would like to pray for you, but I don't know what to pray for. And so he said, would you give me three requests?

And I said, all right. I thought it was a little unusual. And he took out a little notebook, a spiral thing, and he wrote down one request and another and another. And so I just went on my way and I thought, well, that's a little different.

Never seen anybody do that that way. But later on he came to me and he said about two weeks later, John, I want to check on those three requests. And he flipped back a few pages where those three things were and he said, what happened on number one and number two and number three? So he talked for about ten minutes and I told him and he wrote it all down in another column. So he had a request here and an answer here.

And I had occasion one time to visit his home before he moved back to Detroit and I noticed that he had 13 of those spiral notebooks already filled and he was working on number 14. Now you know, there's a guy who's seen God on display, right? You say to him, say, Frank, do you believe God answers prayer?

What kind would you like to see? I got him indexed. I got a whole pile of salvations on this page and overhear some, you know. You see, what he was doing, you see, was letting God display his power in his life by being in on what God was doing. That's the primary issue in prayer. Not getting what I want, but letting God display himself. If residually I get what I want, that's gravy. Mostly important is that I get what I need, right? And sometimes what I need is not what I want. The point of prayer then is to let God display himself.

Oh, what a great thing it is. And people, if you're going to grow spiritually, you're going to grow spiritually as you see God's power on display and prayer puts you into that experience. I'll tell you, the more you pray, the more faithful your prayer life, the faster your spiritual growth because God will be doing great and mighty things which you know not and your expanse of confidence in his power will increase your spiritual maturity. So we glorify God by prayer. And then a ninth key to spiritual growth, a ninth way in which we glorify God, and this one is very important.

In fact, I could talk on this one for a long time. We glorify God by proclaiming the Word. We glorify God by proclaiming the Word. Second Thessalonians chapter 3 verse 1, finally brethren, and I always kind of chuckle about that because Paul says finally and then goes on for 18 verses, typical preacher style. Finally brethren, pray for us, and what are we going to pray for? That the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified.

Oh, I like that. The Word of the Lord is really the expression of God. He is synonymous with his Word. His Word in the Old Testament out of his mouth.

His Word in the New Testament in the living Christ is synonymous with his person. And God is glorified when his Word is proclaimed. In Galatians chapter 1 verses 23 and 24 we read this, and of course this is regarding the Apostle Paul and his conversion and subsequent ministry. It says that the churches of Judea had heard only that he who persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. The churches heard that this fellow Saul of Tarsus, who was busy persecuting the faith, was now preaching the faith.

And what did they do? Verse 24, they glorified God because of me. Why did they glorify God? Because the Word was being preached. The Word was being proclaimed. God is glorified in his Word. Anytime you proclaim the Word of God, you're giving him glory.

Why? Because you're acknowledging that it is the truth. You're acknowledging that it is a life-giving Word, that it is a life-changing Word, a life-transforming Word, a life-sustaining Word. You're saying this is a powerful Word, alive and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword and so forth. When you proclaim the Word of God as the absolute source of truth, you are honoring and glorifying God because he says the same thing about his Word that you're saying when you hold it up as the standard. In fact, in Acts chapter 13, I believe it is, verse 48 says, And when the Gentiles heard this, that is, they heard the message of everlasting life, they were glad and they glorified the Word of the Lord and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. And here again, they glorified God in the proclamation of the Word.

Now this is so very basic and I don't want to get too basic and cover things we've covered before, but let me just say this. There is no spiritual growth without the taking in of the Word. You can't grow without food, right? And that should be a daily process. You don't come to church on Sunday and take in your message and say, oh, that was a wonderful message. No one holds me till next week any more than you eat dinner on Sunday and say, now Lord, we're having a wonderful Sunday dinner and we're just praying that it'll hold us until next Sunday.

You've got to eat probably Sunday night and Monday, Tuesday and so forth. The same thing is true spiritually. There must be a daily feeding on the Word. But listen, there is a greater glory than feeding that comes in giving because as you proclaim the Word and give it out, you have a way of cementing it in your own life. It's kind of like the little statement that says the more you give away, the more you keep, right? I found out as a teacher that the things I teach I remember.

The things I read but never pass on I forget. And so God is glorified in the proclamation of His Word. The servant of God is to give a high priority to the proclaiming of the Word. When you are silent about the gospel and you are silent about the Word of God and it isn't on your lips all the time, you'll retard your spiritual growth.

You know back in Deuteronomy, God said to the people of Israel, you should talk about My law when you stand up, sit down, lie down and walk in the way. It should be on your lips all the time. You should put it in a little thing and hang it between your forehead, between your eyes on your forehead. You should put it on your wrists.

You put it in a box and stick it on the doorposts of your house. You talk about it all the time, all the time, all the time. The Word should be literally filling your heart and your mind so that whenever you open your mouth, it comes out. Trumbull was a great soul winner years back and he said the thing that made the difference in his life, the thing that totally turned his life around was when he made a vow to God and this was his vow. He said, God giving me the strength, every time I introduce the topic of conversation, it will always be concerning Jesus. He kept that vow through his life. Every time he opened his mouth, conversation about Jesus came out.

He saturated himself with it and so saturated was he that whenever he opened his mouth, that's what happened. You know, I've spent so many years studying the Bible and preaching and I know if you poked me in the middle of the night and I popped up, I'd probably recite Bible verses or preach a sermon. I dream about spiritual things. I have biblical dreams. That's what happens to me a lot or dreams about the church. That's the context of my thinking, see, and I thank God for that. God is gracious to me because he could have put me somewhere else and I wouldn't have had the luxury of studying the Bible all the time. But the filling of the mind and then as you teach it, you see, when you need to teach the Word like I do or any other Bible teacher, you have to take it and saturate yourself and saturate and saturate.

You can't just write it on the notes and fire it off. It's got to go through you. And whatever you give away has become so much a part of you that it controls your life. And as you proclaim it, your life is evidently glorifying God in the speaking of his Word.

Now frankly, folks, I'll even go a step further. If Balaam's ass spoke the Word of God, it would glorify God. If Cyrus, who wasn't even a believer, spoke the Word of the Lord, it would glorify him.

If a rotten, evil Caiaphas the high priest spoke the Word of God and it came to pass, it would glorify God. Whenever God's Word is uttered, it glorifies him, but much more so when it flows out of the life of a believer. What I'm saying is you cannot grow spiritually if you are not speaking the Word of God. I believe it's a key to spiritual growth to be uttering the truth of the Word of God. We must give a high priority in our lives to his Word, this very essential element. In 2 Timothy chapter 3, just to give you another thought on this, it says all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

Now watch that. What is the goal of spiritual maturity? To be perfect, to be mature, to grow up.

And how do you do it? All Scripture takes you along the line of doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction, in righteousness, another purpose clause, in order that the man of God may be perfect. So that the process is the process of the working of the Word of God in your heart. And it never works as well in your life as when you're teaching it to somebody else, preaching it to somebody else, sharing it with somebody else. That's what makes it really find root in your heart. And of course, in 2 Timothy 2.15, we have that very special word that says, study or be diligent to show yourself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

That phrase literally means cutting it straight. Paul was a tent maker and he made tents by cutting the patterns out. He made tents out of goatskin and no one goat was big enough for a tent. There wasn't a super goat, just one goat made a tent.

They were small animals and you had to sew them up in pieces and if you didn't cut the individual pieces together, the pattern didn't fit. And he's saying, unless you're careful with the individual parts of Scripture, the total doesn't come together. And so we are to be students of the Word, filling our hearts and filling our lives with this tremendous truth. And as we proclaim it, 2 Thessalonians 3.1, the Word of God has free course and is glorified. How do we glorify God? By proclaiming His Word to believers, to unbelievers, to those who will hear and those who will not. We glorify God then by proclaiming His Word and as we proclaim His Word and as we pray and as we praise Him and as we aim our lives at His purposes and His will and as we love Him enough to obey no matter what it costs, as we do all these things which give Him glory, we are moving in progression toward Christ's likeness. There's no other way to define the Christian life than as a progress, I'll mark it, a progress to glorifying God.

And you know something? It's always a sort of an elusive thing because the longer I live, the more failures I see in my life. People say, well, you know, as you go along, it'll get easier.

No, it gets no easier because the more you know and the more you understand, the more you see your limitations. And so you're ever, ever pressing toward the mark with never a sense of having attained. And in your heart, you long for the day when you'll be like Him for you'll see Him as He is. Let me give you one more thought in this study, a tenth way in which we glorify the Lord. We glorify God by bringing others to Him.

Now this is the natural outgrowth of proclaiming the Word. We're just going to spend a brief moment on this, but 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 15, 2 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 15 says, Paul is writing, of course, to the Corinthians and he had them in his heart, was deeply concerned. In 1 Corinthians, he had said some pretty hard stuff.

He had pretty well flattened them just about every way you could, sarcasm and everything, told them he'd come to them with a rod and whipped them and all these things. And so he kind of tells them why he did this and why he talked this way in 2 Corinthians. And this is what he says in chapter 4 verse 15, for all things, all the things I've ever done in ministry to you, in fact all the things that have ever happened to me, being troubled on every side, verse 8, being persecuted, verse 9, always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, verse 10, always having to face death for the ministry, all these hard things that I've done are for your sakes. Here was a man who was totally committed to the needs of others.

It's all for you. What is the purpose, Paul? In order that the abundant grace and that saving grace, redeeming grace, might through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God. Paul, why do you do this? Why do you go into town when it's hostile? I mean, why do you go where you know you're going to get persecuted? Why do you take all of this flak? Why don't you sneak around the back alleys, pass out tracts and beat it out of town and claim the promise the Word never returns void? Why do you confront everybody?

Why do you wind up in jail? All of these things are that you may know the abundance of saving grace. Why? That you may thank God, see, that the thanksgiving of many... In other words, he wants to add another voice to the thanksgiving choir. He wants to add somebody else who can glorify God. And I guess if you really pin me down, this is probably the greatest element of glorifying God. When you win somebody else to Christ, you see, you double the potential, don't you? If I can glorify God with my life and I win someone else to Christ, then that makes somebody else who has all that potential too. God is glorifying when we bring others to Him. And frankly, that too is a part of spiritual growth. One of the keys to spiritual growth is winning people to Christ because that adds another voice to those who praise and thank the Lord.

It's so important that we see that these are all simple things that we know. People say, oh, spiritual growth, you know, belongs to those who are so far above me. You know, I used to read Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ. And I used to read about mystics, you know, who could kneel and pray for eight to ten hours and they'd have little holes in the wood floors, you know. And I used to read about Robert Murray McShane who would stand at his pulpit and he dropped his head in his Bible and great floods of tears would gush out of his face and soil the pages of his Bible and the tear-stained pulpit. And I would read about these kinds of people who seem to walk with God at a level that's incomprehensible. Read a book by E. M. Bounds called Power Through Prayer. And this man was consumed hour upon hour upon hour with prayer.

And I'd say to myself, oh, you know, it's useless, right? I mean, I just, I'll never get to that level. And that's because God uses everybody in a different way. But spiritual growth is not some mystical thing for somebody way off in some spaced out spiritual distance. Spiritual growth is very simple. It's a matter of obedience, a matter of loving the Lord. It's a matter of praying, praising, believing, confessing sin, proclaiming the Word, bearing fruit, all of these things and winning people to Christ, it's that simple.

That's the element in your life that's going to mean maturity. And the sooner we focus on these simple basics, the sooner we're going to see the Spirit of God changing us into the image of Christ from one level of glory to the next. Let's bow together in prayer. Father, we thank You for our study. We thank You that You've given us some very simple and basic principles that we can apply to our lives to grow spiritually. God help us to be discontent with where we are and like the Apostle Paul, ever hunger in our hearts to know Him in a greater way, to be more like Him that we might manifest Your fullness in this world for Your praise in Christ's name, amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us.

Today's lesson is part of John's current series titled, Back to Basics. Now still thinking about our duty to proclaim God's Word, you know, John, I think we can say in the year 2020, with all the upheaval that's come with it, this has actually been a helpful test of grace to use resolve to keep doing what we've always done, and that is to proclaim biblical truth. With all the chaos that this ministry has endured this year, we've had the opportunity either to trust or not to trust the sufficiency of Scripture, to trust that the Bible is not only what people hunger for, this is what they need the most.

And I think that showed up all around us, and not only at Grace to You, but at Grace Community Church, where I pastor and where you're an elder, we have seen an explosion of hunger for the truth. People know there's deception in the world, and this has been a year like no other year in my long lifetime. There are always problems, and you can go back and identify some pretty serious problems, some catastrophic years like 9-11, and there have been some things that affected this nation, but there has never been anything that carries this kind of fear, and what is generating this fear is a kind of an eschatological sense that this is never going to be what this country was or what we wish it would be. In other words, there's an angst that has deeper, deeper impact on people, because they don't think there's a way out of this. It can't get any better.

I think that because of that, there's been an amazing sifting in ministries. This is not a popular time for sort of a glorified TED Talk. This is not a time when people want to hear some sentimental stuff. This is not a time when people want to rush to hear somebody tell them how wonderful they are, some positive message. This is a time for truth. People are really terrified.

All the masks indicate their fear, and even though the fear may be nowhere near the proportion that it's being sold, we have a globe of fearing people, and when you get to a point of fear where you really think maybe it'll never be the way it was or the way I want it, there's a need for something far more profound and far more divine, and that has caused all of our ministries to literally explode with interest as people come rushing to the truth. Of all the times in my life for us to be proclaiming the truth, this seems to be the most impactful, the most widespread interest in the truth that I've ever seen in my lifetime. People are turning to us from secular organizations, asking us to weigh in with biblical truth.

So I think the depth and height and length and breadth of this fear has driven people to think seriously, and that kind of serious thinking will drive them to seek divine truth, and we've been able to be there in this hour, and all of our ministries have just exploded. By the way, you make this possible, and your end-giving will guarantee we'll be able to keep doing it next year. Yes, friend, this is really an important time for the ministry.

About 25 percent of our budget needs are covered by gifts we receive at the end of the year. To help us keep encouraging people with biblical truth in 2021, get in touch today. You can express your support at our website, gty.org, or mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Or call us at 800-55-GRACE. And thank you for helping us bring clear, life-changing biblical truth to God's people in communities like yours and around the world. Again, to donate, call 800-55-GRACE, or go to gty.org. And if you can't make a donation just now, keep in mind that there are plenty of other important ways to support this ministry, none more important than praying for John and the staff. Also, let people know what you're learning from Grace To You, and encourage them to tune in. We'd also love to hear the specifics of how John's teaching is strengthening you spiritually, especially if God has used Grace To You to draw you to salvation. You can email us at letters at gty.org. Or mail your letter to Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412. Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson reminding you to watch Grace To You television this Sunday, check your local listings for channel and times, and make sure you're here tomorrow for another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-17 06:51:46 / 2024-01-17 07:03:19 / 12

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