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May 18, 2008 PM

MK 11:22-27

INTRO: It almost seems that these verses in which the Lord teaches some critical lessons about prayer are out of place. But from the withering of the fig tree and His words to Peter, who seemed to be a bit surprised by the complete withering of the tree, Jesus speaks of faith: "Have faith in God."  I am reminded of the passage in which Jesus says, "For with God all things are possible" (Mk 10:27). Then, from this reference to faith Jesus proceeds to speak of faith as it relates to prayer. A bit disjointed? Perhaps. At least it might seem so to you and me. But that does not minimize in the least the lesson He teaches about prayer. Mark's relating of these things is obviously very brief. Most assuredly, the New Testament has a great deal to say about prayer and praying ... not the least of which is our praying in keeping with God's will (see 1 Jno 5:14, for example).

    1. Mk 11:22 - "Have faith in God"
      1. prayer is pointless in the absence of faith in God
      2. Heb 11:6 - if one does not believe in God, why pray?
      3. Mt 7:11 - do we really believe in this God? this Father?
      4. it may be a bit difficult at times to pray to God Whom we cannot see - I have often wondered if that is why idols adorn so many religious edifices
    2. Mt 11:23  - Faith that is confidence in praying
      1. this "moving mountains" expression is thought to be a proverbial one
      2. notice, for example, Paul's use of it at 1 Cor 13:2
      3. the point of the expression is to emphasize the great power of prayer in faith
      4. seemingly impossible things (human perspective) are affected by prayer
    3. Notice "shall not doubt in his heart"
      1. "I'm not sure it will do any good, but I'll pray anyway"
      2. unfortunately, prayer too often is the "last ditch effort" for people
      3. prayer must be the "atmosphere" of ones life - not the emergency cord
      4. Eph 6:18 - "praying always...with all perseverance..." (Lk 18:1)
    1. The expectation of prayer certainly relates to faith in praying
      1. if belief is not present, certainly no reason for expectation
      2. what do you expect when you pray?
      3. most of us, I think, would like a clear, identifiable answer
      4. but God does not "hang signs" on His work!
    2. Still, we should expect an answer from Him
      1. note "believe that ye receive them"
      2. 1 Jno 5:14 - "this is the confidence that we have in Him"
      3. but there is that qualifier - "according to his will"
      4. yet, we can expect Him to answer our prayers - in keeping with His will
    3. Jas 1:6 - "But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering..."
      1. the answer to my prayers is up to the Father - that's His business
      2. it is my business, however, to pray expectantly
      3. and it is my business to confidently believe He will answer
      4. true, we may have problems with the answering if we do not see the answer as we have asked - but whether or not we recognize it, He answers!
    1. Think about this...
      1. if our human relationships are in a mess, our relationship with God is, too
      2. 1 Jno 4:20 makes this point in a very pointed way
    2. Mk 11:25,26 - The imperative..."forgive"
      1. to ask God to forgive us while having an unforgiving spirit ourselves will withhold God's forgiveness from us
      2. my strong suspicion is that many may tend to neglect getting human relationships in order ... yet, seek God's forgiveness for transgressions
    3. On our being forgiving...
      1. Mt 5:23,24 - does this not give a strong signal about how human relationships impact ones relationship with God?
      2. Mt 6:12 - do we want Him to forgive in the same way we forgive?
      3. Mt 18:35 - "...from your hearts forgive..." - is there someone you need to forgive?
      4. are you praying with bitterness in your heart? Do you really believe that sort of praying is of benefit to you?

CLOSE: Prayer is one of the vital keys to a strong spiritual life. And these few words of the Lord on this subject are so helpful as we seek to grow stronger in our Christian walk.

Cecil A. Hutson

18 May 2008

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)