Press In

Matthew 6:6-8 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

It is a disturbing thing to know anything said about being blessed, getting blessing and coming blessing;  would always get the great “Amen”.  The responses would be from every race, culture and social background.  I can speak about how get blessed, be blessed, get God’s favor and list steps on it and I wouldn’t have to beg for an “Amen”.  But the truth of the matter is that none of it is true even though it may sound true.  I could even find biblical scriptures that when taken out of context, would support my statements.  The fact that we are blessed is because of what Jesus has done but that does nothing to change our attitudes.  I have fallen victim myself in trying to earn God’s grace or favor.  I once believed that by doing X, Y, and Z; I could receive and maintain God’s blessings.  God had become a slot machine that if you would pull the handle a certain way, during a particular time period after performing a certain ritual would pour out blessings.

To my surprise I have learned that God gives and withholds blessings based on his purposes, not mine.  We have received so many blessings without asking and some were undeserved. We never have enough and we pray over and over for more stuff. We pray for situations, money, clothes, shoes, homes, cars, bills, love, victory,  and strength. The moment we are covered by Christ we become more than we could ever hope for. But we continue to press into God for more stuff.  God delays and we continue to press in thinking he hears the fervent prayers for things or pleasure. As we keep praying, things are still being taken away. But it is not until the prayer lines up with God and our hearts follow do things happen. I have seen the “Lord have mercy prayer” move mountains. Yet we don’t get it as the cycle continues and we continue to circle ourselves, tighter and tighter. We press for more things and never do we press for more Jesus.

We lift up the story of Job for everything and it is our go to source of reassurance.  We see the removal of our things as a work of the devil.  We see the removal of stuff as God making room for us to receive even more!  Our happiness and joy walks in and out of our lives with every lose of “blessings”.  We mark our spiritual maturity by the abundance of things and how “blessed” we appear to be.  Yet, we are told to keep praying and don’t stop, so we press closer to God which sounds correct.  But what are we getting closer to God for?  We turn to Job but don’t hear Job’s prayers to God.  We turn to Job but don’t hear God’s response to him.  We turn to Job but don’t see what Satan has accused Job’s motives of pressing into God to be.

James 4 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Our struggles with each other and our struggles against ourselves is all because of the desires within.  We covet our idols and idols of others as we build our meanings of life around them.  We press into God praying that He would aid in our further separation from Him.  We pray for to God to help us create, worship, and support our gods.  Looking at James 4 with the sub title being “Submit yourselves to God” really makes sense now as I think about a recent sermon I heard.  In the sermon, it describes two ways of coming to God.  One way is when we come to God to make our life better or to gain something that we are in search of.  This approach is given the label of boarder.  A boarder is someone who pays a certain amount of money for a set of services to be provided for them.  They have a business type of relationship with the person providing the services.  The other way to come to God is as a child.  This way the person comes empty and offering nothing expecting only a relationship with the Father.  So we have all walked the isle seeking God to complete us, give us what’s lacking in our lives such as, a spouse, job, success, a house, a car, etc.  We have heard that if you get right with God your life will get better and you will get God’s favor over all you do.  Yes it sounds very innocent but we are using God not loving or worshiping God when we approach Him like this.  This is not the same as coming like a child.  I have seen my kids come to me not to get a toy but to get me, their father.  When they do this I want their lives to be blessed even more so.  But we don’t see coming as a boarder as a problem.  James calls for us to submit ourselves to God and not to the things we are praying for to gratify our pleasures.  A boarder does just that, as long as they pay they expect certain services but we don’t understand that we can never put God in debt to us.  Doing our duty isn’t about putting God in our debt or getting our lives in order so He can bless us.  And even if we change our approach, if the motive for change is to get things it is not genuine.

Sin is man curved in on himself. Sin is always choosing yourself over God and others, placing yourself at the center. Sin determines that even when you do good things – even when you help the poor, enter into friendships, go to church, try to obey the Ten Commandments – it’s always about you. Sin determines that you relate to God and other people only in such a way and only to the degree that it furthers your agenda – doing things the way you think they should be done, giving you the self-image you want. As soon as a relationship with God or other people becomes costly, we’re out of it. Why? Because even when it looks like we’re serving God and other people, we’re really serving ourselves. That’s how insidious sin is.

– Tim Keller

Matthew 6:31-33 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Looking at Matthew 6:31-33 and the above scriptures something has occurred to me.  God is constantly pushing towards Matthew 6:33, he removes the temporal things to show us only He will last and only He will satisfy. Our prayers are filled with things we want more than Him. But if we would just abandon our agenda for His, our lives would be better. We don’t “get saved” to save our lives but to lose our old life in order to gain a new one. Look at our problems, our struggles are all centered around making something more important than God. God disrupts life because He crushes sins, our sins are having another source of joy, happiness, peace, completeness, salvation, meaning, and love. Everything we use will not and cannot last because they are plagued with death.  Our trail and tribulation at times can be linked to a earthly good thing serving as a sinful replacement for God.  To have an idol taken away is a painful thing filled with denial of it being our god.  It hurts so much to lose something that we have built our lives around.  It is hard to watch the thing or blessing leave us.  That blessing had become our assurance of a blessed and godly life when our assurance was Jesus Christ the whole time but we were just using Christ to get what we really wanted…  That house, new job, that spouse, those kids, the new car, the love of people, the respect of people, power, control and a million other good things gone bad.  If we are to press into God through prayer, let it be to get more of Him.  Because the gospel is about reconciliation of us to God.  The reason we can pray is because Christ died, and He died to bring us and the world back into a relationship with Him.  Christ died to give us more Christ, and in Christ is everything we will ever need.  If you can’t believe that, then you can’t trust Jesus because your true trust is in other things.

“Happiness can never be found directly… happiness is always and only a by-product of seeking something else more than happiness… if you seek righteousness more than happiness, you’ll get both. If you seek happiness more than righteousness, you’ll get neither… the person who is happy is the one who has stopped trying to be so happy.”

– Tim Keller, from a sermon called “The Search for Happiness.”

We cannot hope to realign how we press into God or how we approach God until we understand grace.  We must rest in grace of God, I pray that His grace will finally reach our hearts.

 “To live by grace means we understand that God’s blessing on our lives is not conditioned by our obedience or disobedience but by the perfect obedience of Christ. It means that out of a grateful response to the grace of God, we seek to understand His will and to obey Him, not to be blessed, but because we have been blessed. –Jerry Bridges ( transforming grace) “

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  1. […] met Jesus.  What becomes of us is wonderfully described as being a boarder. From Blog Post: Press-In  In  a sermon, Pastor Tim Keller describes two ways of coming to God.  One way is when we come […]

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  2. […] met Jesus.  What becomes of us is wonderfully described as being a boarder. From Blog Post: Press-In  In  a sermon, Pastor Tim Keller describes two ways of coming to God.  One way is when we come […]

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