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Desperate Prayers

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2023 12:00 am

Desperate Prayers

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 25, 2023 12:00 am

Have you ever prayed hard for a prodigal friend or family member and it seemed like your prayers weren’t getting past the ceiling. Well here’s the Apostle John’s advice for you today: keep praying!

1 John 5:16-18

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Would you grant me entrance? What did Jesus say? Did he say, you have got to be kidding?

Did he say that? You've spent your entire life as an unbeliever. You've spent your adult life in insurrection and unbelief and thieving, murdering crimes.

In fact, Jesus would have known every one of his sins, right? You mean you of all people want to come to your dying day and then be able to get into heaven? Yes. At what point should we give up on people? Seriously, when does it become appropriate to stop interceding for someone and just consider them a lost cause?

Have you ever done that? Well, here's the reality. Wouldn't you agree that the illustration of the thief on the cross tells us that it's never too late for someone to turn to Christ? Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey.

We're continuing through a series called Without a Doubt. And today we come to a lesson called Desperate Prayers. You'll be challenged and encouraged by what you hear, so keep listening.

How do you pray for sinning people? Let me invite you back to the first letter from John and chapter 5 where he addresses this very issue, 1 John chapter 5. And I want to warn you at the outset, this has really been a difficult passage for me.

A lot of different opinions, a lot of ink, a lot of interpretations, a lot of confusion, and it's been really, really challenging. In fact, all I'm going to do is just read verses 16 and 17 and you'll catch it right away why there's so much confusion. 1 John 5, 16, just listen as I read along. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death.

I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin and there is a sin not leading to death. That was easy. Aren't you glad you came today? I get to a text like this and wonder why God didn't call me to be a topical preacher like so many others. You can just skip passages like this and get to something a little more fun, a little more easy. Actually, what I love about Bible exposition, verse by verse, it forces us as a body of believers and certainly me as your teaching elder, it just kind of forces us to address it and once we sort of get into it and dig through it, we find some unique warnings and encouragements.

The first thing we need to address, rather than go through phrase by phrase, let me just sort of pick some things out and address them. We need to address this idea of sin leading to death. That's the first thing that you see when you read a passage like this, isn't it? There's sin leading to death and there's sin not leading to death.

Oh my, I wonder which one it is. I mean, is there some kind of really bad sin that leads to an early death? And if there is, I hope Stephen's going to tell me which one it is before we leave. Maybe he found it in some text. Frankly, the church has struggled with this idea and I think so much of it unnecessarily is I'll hopefully lead us to understand in a moment. We want John to spell it out. I want to know what sin this is and I'm hoping, I'm hoping, right, that I haven't done it.

I hope it has nothing to do with speeding limits and not liking cats, okay, because if so, I'm in deep trouble. One of my favorite Greek scholars cleared up so much of the confusion by simply pointing out that John is not using definite articles before the word sin. So you could sort of shade that little article before the word sin. So you could translate verse 16, if anyone sees his brother committing sin, literally sinning sin, not leading to death. Not a sin.

There's no a there. Simply committing sin, not unto death. Again, a bit of part of verse 16, there is sin, not, there is a sin, there is sin leading to death. Again in verse 17, there is sin not leading to death. So right off the bat here, I want you to understand that John is not referring to some specific sin or some list of sins, the dirty dozen, you know, whatever. In fact, he puts to rest the search for mortal and venial sin.

We got to figure this out. Look down at verse 17, he simply writes, all unrighteousness is what? Is sin. All sin is sin. Physical death comes to all of us because of sin. John could be referring to spiritual death, a death-like existence even for believers.

James talks about that as well. Living a life not worth living. And let me, as you think about it, well what sin could that be so egregious that it leans toward death? Or what kind of lifestyle of sinning could there be? You're immediately perhaps going to think of Matthew chapter 12 where we have that classic text.

Let me just sort of do a little sidebar. Hang with me as he talks about, Jesus talks about this sin that isn't, it will not be pardoned. We call it the unpardonable sin. Make it a little bit more than Jesus intended. But that sin, if you go back into that text and study it, the Pharisees are resisting in their opposition the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Messiah.

And they're in a, they're boxed in. And so what they have to do instead of accept him as truly Lord God, they say, well we know what it is. We know all those things you're doing, they're actually empowered by the devil. That's it. Yeah, you're doing miraculous things but the devil is empowering you.

What are they doing? They're effectively rejecting Jesus Christ. And rejecting Jesus Christ, by the way, is unpardonable, isn't it? Had they repented, they would have been forgiven because of other scripture that informs us that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from every sin. It's not every sin over here is forgivable and then there's this one. Sinning unto death is not so much an issue of God's unwillingness to forgive, it's really more an issue of man's unwillingness to repent.

So if we see somebody that it seems like they're leaning toward death, they're refusing repentance, they're choosing a lifestyle that denies the mastery of Christ, they are on the throne of their lives, we see somebody like that, how do we pray for them? Because that's actually what John is exhorting us to do, to pray for those caught up in sin. So let me back up and say it's so tempting to get bogged down in trying to figure out some of these issues that we forget or overlook what John is referring to, as sinning unto death and not sinning unto death.

We miss his primary point. Pray for both. Go back to verse 16.

If you see a brother sinning, the next phrase or the command to you is to do what? To ask and God will for him give life. Now he already has life spiritually but he's living a death-like existence. He's living a life not worth living. So pray for him. He's ensnared in a sinning and sinful lifestyle. And God may very well bring restoration.

A life revived, fruitful, rescued. Now there is one other confusing issue, if you understand that there is no one specific sin that John is referring to. One of the other challenging issues with this text is that John seems to be suggesting that we shouldn't pray for people that we know are either believers or unbelievers but they're sinning so continuously.

They're a hard case. They don't seem to be responding. They are, look at the middle part of verse 16 again, they're sinning unto death. And then he says, I do not say that he should make request for this. And that's where you go, okay, now we got to start all over again because I don't understand. He's telling me not to pray for this person. And that raises a problem, doesn't it?

Because we don't have a list. And John said it in a specific sin. But now we don't know the ultimate response of anyone caught up in a lifestyle of sinning is John saying we shouldn't pray for those really hard cases. Don't make requests for them. If they persist in their stubbornness or in their unbelief, we ought to just take them off the prayer list and start, you know, fashioning their coffin.

Put their name on the lid. This is for you. Is that what we're supposed to do? It appears that way. Is John suggesting that we identify, you know, there's really bad sinners and stay out of their way and just pray for restoration and life and forgiveness for people who seem open to listening? And how in the world, and this is the challenge, if that's what John is saying, how are we supposed to be able to determine that individual?

How can we tell if they're that hard case or not? How can we tell if God is going to bring death to them? And he may, but how are we supposed to know who that person is and the one who will repent? God may be doing that in our lives, but we can't see.

We just pray, but we don't know. So why would John say don't make any requests for those people? That's what it looks like he's saying.

He's not. Let me back you up to verse 15 where John is encouraging our prayer life. He says, and if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request which we have asked from him. Now go to verse 16 and the last phrase.

There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should make a request for this. There's that same word request again. It sounds like John is saying on the one hand we're to make a request to God for people, and then when you get to this kind of person, we're not to make any requests for this one.

I guess this person is just persisting in their sinning. That's where the English reader can really get bogged down, and I'm going to help solve the issue right here. I have had you often circle words in your text, words that are repeated.

God wants to emphasize a truth. And so if you've been with us in our study, especially in chapter 5, you've circled certain words. Even back into chapter 4, we've circled the word love over and over and over again.

In chapter 5, we've circled the word no, K-N-O-W, no, we know, we know, we know. And then we talked about this word ask. In verse 15, we ask, we ask, we make requests, we ask. Now we read, but don't make a request, verse 16. And this prohibition raises a great struggle with us as we attempt to understand what he's saying. As I studied this text, it suddenly occurred to me that John switches his vocabulary and uses a different word than he had been using all along. The word translated request in verse 15 is different than in verse 16. In fact, let me have you take your pencil again, and I'm going to have you visualize this right on your text by circling some words.

Those of you with smartphones and whatever are tough, okay? But those of you that have Bibles, you're going to be able to get it, all right? All right, here I'm going to go at verse 15, so go there, and I'm going to stop and tell you which words to circle. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, circle that, we know that we have the requests, circle that word, requests, which we have asked, circle that word, from him, verse 16. If anyone sees his brother committing sin, not leading to death, he shall ask, circle that word.

Now stop. Now look back at your text, and all of those words that you circled come from the same Greek word, eiteo, which means to make a request in prayer to God, a petition to God. Now I want you to notice the middle phrase of verse 16.

There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should make request for this. And you immediately assume that John is telling you not to pray about that, right? But John changes the verb. He changes the word he uses, and it's significant.

It's the verb erotao. John, in fact, I found out more than any other biblical author, uses this word to often refer to someone who is simply seeking information. They want data. They want details. They want to know stuff about it. They want to seek, you could translate it, they want to seek information.

That's what he's talking about. I want to recommend that you write another word next to this word, just in verse 16. Maybe circle that and draw a line out to the margin of your Bible. Somewhere in the margin of your Bible, I do not say that he should make a request for information.

In other words, it isn't up to you to seek the details related to the sin as to whether or not it is leaning toward death or not. That word, by the way, is used when Jesus asked, requested from his disciples information on how many loaves there were in Mark 8. When Jesus asked his disciples, he requested information. Who do men say that I am? That's the word he used here.

Give me information. Matthew 16. When the disciples asked Jesus the meaning of parables, they used this word. They made a request for more details, for more information. John uses that word here in verse 16.

I couldn't help but smile and thank the Lord for this discovery late in this past week. The confusing problem we have with this text in trying to determine what sinner is leaning toward repentance or life, and what sinner is leaning toward death, which would lead us then, right, to want to know all the information, to get all of the data that we can so that we would know if we're supposed to pray or not. That's exactly the opposite of what John is saying to do. We don't need information.

We don't need data. We can't determine who's leaning toward judgment and who isn't. So he's effectively saying, don't worry about that. Just pray for both cases. We don't need to know who might be disciplined by God in an early death. John warns us that can happen, but we're not going to know who that person is. We don't need to know whom God is going to lead to repentance. Some will. We don't know who they are, but we pray for both cases.

This is John's major point here. Pray, and the more desperate that person seems to be, pray more desperately for them. Pray passionately for people that you see become ensnared by their passion. God may use you to bring them restoration.

Let me stop for just a moment. So far we understand that there's not one particular sin, and maybe shading that little Article A out would be helpful. There's not one particular sin that will bring about an early death, even this so-called unpardonable sin, which is nothing more than rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ. We've also learned that no one gets taken off the prayer list because it's not up to us to get enough data to know from God who is going to die and who's going to live, who's going to repent and who's going to dig in. The Lord simply wants us to pray. Now let's go back to these two verses, and let me give you what I believe is the heart of John's message here. Let me point out three characteristics of biblical intercession. Three characteristics of biblical intercession. Number one, first of all, the Lord wants us to be confidential in interceding. Look back at verse 16 again. If anyone sees his brother committing sin—now stop there for a moment.

John uses a word that indicates you're actually seeing with your own eyes somebody committing sin, living a lifestyle of sin, refusing to repent of sin, whatever it might be. It isn't a matter of personal suspicion. It isn't because somebody told you so or you heard it. You are watching it. You're watching it. You're an eyewitness.

So what are you supposed to do about it? You've seen it. John tells us, look again, if anyone actually—and I'll add that word in there—if anyone actually sees his brother committing sin, not unto death, he shall call seven close friends and tell them all about it. I like that text. He shall bring this new prayer request up to his small group meeting.

Oh, it's not exactly what he says, is it? Ask first and foremost. You might get involved. You might intervene. You might interrupt. You might call others to pray with you. But the first thing you're doing is not, oh, guess what I saw.

I saw it. You see, we talk to everybody but God. John is saying, talk to God about everybody. And you can be sure that God is able to keep a secret until it needs to be made known. One author wrote, the greatest antidote to scandal in the church is prayer. The truth is we never really pray for people we gossip about, do we? And we never gossip about people we're praying for. If you see your brother sinning, go to God.

I couldn't help but notice, you realize how easy that first part is? If you see your brother sinning, that's easy to do, isn't it? It's easy for us to spot sin in someone else's life and fail to see it. We are, I know I am, expert at spotting sin.

Sin spotting. There ought to be a degree in that. We're not so expert at interceding. So John, first and foremost, wants us to be confidential. That doesn't mean you can't include others to pray. Talk to God first and foremost. And just make sure those that you ask to pray are actually praying and they're not just one more cluster of grapes on the grapevine who are now in the know.

Be confidential. Secondly, the Lord wants us to be confident in interceding. Look at the latter part of verse 16. And God will, for him, give life to those who commit sin, not leading to death. In other words, this person is going, he's not going to experience the judgment of God in an early death. He's going to be brought to repentance. And it's your prayer life, according to this text, and your personal interaction with a sinning believer, you become the channel through which God chooses to work in that sinner's life. Transforming.

Reviving. Paul writes these stunning words in Galatians 6 and we miss the implication of it. He says, brethren, if anybody is caught in a sin, literally the trap has sprung, you who are spiritual, that is you are spiritually minded about that individual, restore such a one. Interesting.

Did you get that? You are the one God says is doing the restoring. Both Paul and John view the praying, interceding, ultimately interacting believer as a conduit of the grace of God, you become the channel of blessing. The intercessor is actually credited with restoration.

Fascinating thought. Ultimately, we know it is all the grace of God, right? It is the grace of God. But the apostles, Paul and John, reveal that in the mystery of the will of God, he delights to use you and me to both intercede and what he considers effectively, restore. Be confidential.

Be confident. Thirdly, the Lord wants his intercessors to be continual in interceding. 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul writes, brethren, pray for us. See, John would say, look, you don't know who is going to believe. You don't know who is going to repent. Don't try to figure out who you are going to pray for because of what you might believe their ultimate end.

Pray for both. Which means that we are never to label anyone or any situation as hopeless. A person may reach a point where they are eventually interrupted and disciplined from the fellowship of the church. That unrepentant adulterer in 1 Corinthians 5 where Paul says, now you as a body, deliver them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.

What is he saying? Let them experience the judgment of God in their dying. But, he says, their spirit will be saved. In other words, the disciplined believer doesn't lose his salvation. He doesn't lose his sonship. He loses his fellowship. The church acts out the loss of fellowship that that individual has lost with God the Father.

However, that man was never off their prayer list, was he? Because the second letter Paul writes to the Corinthians, or we call it 2 Corinthians, he says, now this man evidently repented. Now reaffirm to him your love.

Bring him back. The prodigal has come home. Maybe as I preach this, you're wondering about yourself. Maybe you're not a Christian. Maybe you're wondering right now, have I somehow committed some sin worthy of unforgiveness? Have I gone too far? Am I beyond the reach of the grace of God?

Is it too late for me? Let me answer that by asking you to do something. On the count of three, I want you to take in a breath. Ready? One, two, three.

Were you able to do that? You're still alive. There's still time.

There's breath in your lungs. John has given us a warning. There is sinning unto death. We don't know who that is and what that is and the ultimate outcome, but it is a warning.

But if you're able to take a breath, it's not too late. The criminal whose crimes probably more than likely included murder, insurrection, they were captured along with Barabbas, no doubt they were all to hang on those three crosses. Jesus, as we know, took the place of Barabbas.

Hanging between those two murdering thieves, they both mocked him along with the crowd until finally one of them stopped. No doubt the wonderful work of the Spirit of God in his life, perhaps it was the gospel revealed in the placard, the only thing he'd ever read of the gospel. This is the King of the Jews. He stops, contemplates, perhaps hearing the words of Christ, and eventually looks over at that blood-soaked Savior and says, Lord, if there's any way you would ever have me in mind when you come into your kingdom implied I believe you really are a king and you've got a kingdom that's eternal, would you grant me entrance? And what did Jesus say? Did he say, you have got to be kidding?

Did he say that? You've spent your entire life as an unbeliever. You've spent your adult life in insurrection and unbelief and thieving, murdering crimes.

In fact, Jesus would have known every one of his sins, right? You mean you of all people want to come to your dying day and then be able to get into heaven? Yes.

Yes. Today you're going to be with me in paradise. This man had been leaning toward death his entire life and on his last day and just before his death he is given eternal life. You don't need to know which way somebody is leaning.

You don't need to have all the information. You don't need to know what God has in mind. You just intercede.

You pray desperate prayers for desperate people. Is there hope for even the hardest heart? Perhaps you're a believer here listening and you've walked away from your testimony and you have grieved the Spirit of God.

Is it too late to enjoy the fellowship with him? No, Isaiah says it this way. Although your sins be as scarlet, they'll be as white as snow. Though they are like crimson, they shall be as wool.

You don't get crimson red stain out of a white wool sweater no matter how much that woman smiles on that commercial. God can take any deep crimson, scarlet, sinful stain and make our hearts as clean as freshly fallen snow. I trust that Stephen's reminder today will spur you on in your commitment to intercessory prayer. Can we pray for you? We have people praying for every request that comes into our ministry. We also share information about how you can pray for us. To send a prayer request or to join our global prayer team and pray for our ministry, visit wisdomonline.org forward slash prayer. You can visit there any time that you have a prayer need and I hope you'll do that. I also hope you'll join us back here next time as we bring you more wisdom for the hearts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-25 01:36:14 / 2023-05-25 01:46:17 / 10

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