Lent Sermon 5…

12832295_992026304184349_3501621236393533043_nThis is my last sermon on Prayer for Lent. I hope you all have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed preaching them. This last sermon is one of my favorites. Be blessed as you read it.

Prayer: The Ministry and Mission of Love – Luke 22:39-46

Is the world as it should be? Do you like the world that we have made? What would you change about it? Before I begin I just want to make sure that we are on the same page. The world is not how it should be. Fear grips our world and humanity that lives in it. Fear of the unknown. Fear of disaster. Fear of others. Fear of not being happy. Fear of not living to the fullest. Fear of death. Fear drives our way of life. Because of this fear we live our lives secluded and shut off from anything that we fear. We only let people in to our lives that we have tested and know they would not harm us. Even then, these people who have passed our tests might harm us on accident. Even though we trusted them once the trust is broken, the damage is done and the testing of trust starts all over.

Fear drives how we spend our money. How should we invest it, how should we spend it, who should we give our money to, are questions that we ask. Sometimes I believe that money is truly what makes the world go round because we think more about money than anything else. We make our living and no one is going to tell me how to use it because it is mine. This fear even creeps into our spiritual life and if the church does not spend my money how I want it spent then I will not give it.

Fear even has even become our gospel of Jesus Christ. “Believe in Jesus Christ or spend eternity in Hell!” is shouted from pulpits all across our land. Fear drives an ultimatum belief in God. Fear sucks all the beauty and life out of our faith. All that is left is a desire to be obedient so that I will be found acceptable to God, so that I wont spend eternity in hell. Fear is one of the most crippling emotions and thoughts that plague our world.

From the beginning fear has gipped us. After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they were ashamed of each other as they saw each other naked. Then when the LORD came looking for them they hid in fear. Shame is a fear of what others might think of you. Hiding is a result of avoiding something out of fear. Before the fall I believe there was no fear, for what did humanity have to fear. God? No, they walked daily with the LORD. Each other? No, they were flesh of each others flesh. Nature? No, all the animals stood before Adam as he named them, all the trees and fruit were eatable except the tree of knowledge which the LORD commanded they not eat. It was not until after sin that fear become the dominant characteristic of humanity. We suffer for it still today.

So why do I speak about fear when we are supposed to be talking about prayer? That is a good question and I hope I will address this fear.

We have seen in the past sermons that prayer is not just something we do. Prayer is a way of life. It pours out of us as our hearts cry out to the LORD. It reveals how we were created; in the image of God. It shapes our lives and faith. Prayer is the joining of our hearts with the Fathers heart in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Prayer evokes a certain language of the heart that speaks the truth about God. We pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s will is done because God chose us to be His image and He chose us to evoke His name in prayer so that all the world would become united in Jesus Christ. Prayer is God’s chosen plan to bring salvation to all people in Jesus Christ. Today we will look at how Prayer is the ministry and mission of God’s love.

The prayer that Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives is generally a confusing aspect of Jesus. When we read this passage we generally think why Jesus would pray this to the Father. At the surface of this prayer we sometimes question Jesus faith. Was Jesus afraid? Did Jesus not want to die? If he was afraid to die what does that say about His love for me? “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me.” That is not a prayer of faith, but a prayer of fear. In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus prayers this multiple times. Of course in the end Jesus concedes and gives up to the Fathers will. “However, not my will but your will must be done.”

Those who live life with a goal of obedience to God see this as Jesus’ trade mark of faith. People who stake their life on obedience say, “You can beg and plead all you want, but in the end ‘God’s Will’ will be done and there is nothing you can do about it. If you truly have faith you might as well get over yourself and do what God wants you to do.” Does this attitude hold water for Jesus’ reason for this prayer? I ask this because, for me, it does not make sense.

From the beginning of Jesus ministry He knew He was going to the cross. In fact Jesus told His disciples on three different occasions that He was going to die. Jesus says this, “The time has come for the Human One to be glorified. I assure you that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their lives will lose them, and those who hate their lives in this world will keep them forever. Whoever serves me must follow me. Wherever I am, there my servant will also be. My Father will honor whoever serves me. ‘Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name!’” (John 12) Bold words, but they show that Jesus knew He was going to die. He had resolved this in his heart and mind before He even came to earth. It was not fear or obedience that drove His will. It was not fear or obedience that drove His prayer on the Mount of Olives. If not fear or obedience than what?

What is the true heart of the gospel? What is God’s essence? Why does God do all that He does? LOVE!!! “God is Love!” (1 John 4) Love is what moves and guides the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since love moves and guides the Triune God, love also moves and guides those who willingly respond to being a Child of God. Love is the image of God which we were created in. So, love is the image that we project into the world. As the Spirit tells us, “Perfect love drives out all fear.” (1 John 4) “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15) With this in mind let us look at this prayer through the eyes of love.

I will be the first one to admit that Jesus did not want to go through the pain of death. No, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would willingly ask to be beaten, whipped, pierced, spit on, mocked, flogged, falsely accused, or be killed on the cross. So in essence it wasn’t the fear of going though all this that Jesus prayed, but the reality of what He was going to face.

Have you ever decided to do something hard and when it was time to do it reality hits you square in the face. I remember on my wedding day as Jessica was coming down the aisle, reality hit me square in the face. I wasn’t scared of marring Jessica, in fact this is what I wanted. I wanted to share my life with someone who I knew would love me no matter what I did. But, when that reality hits you, that your whole world is about to change it gets a little overwhelming. And so I prayed, “Lord don’t let me screw this up.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing my marriage with dying on the cross, but my point is that when the reality of your choices start to take place we can be overwhelmed. Jesus prayer was Him dealing with the strain of the reality of His choices, of His love.

His prayer exposed how a faith in love looks like. Love is not easy. It is hard and it can go through some pretty gruesome tests. To love is to pray. When Jesus prayed, He revealed how we are to love all people, through prayer. You see prayer does two things; it intercedes for others and moves us toward action.

Intercession prayer is when you pray for someone else. When you lift up people in your prayers you are interceding for them. You are standing in their place before God and asking whatever needs to be done. You are pleading their case before the Judge. When Jesus prays, He is really praying for us and for God. He prayed that the cup would pass from us. He prayed that we would be able to do God’s will. Since Jesus is God Incarnate, He is both completely human and completely divine. Not two natures, but one nature of humanity and divinity. When Jesus prays He is interceding for all of humanity. He prays that we would not have to face the full wrath of God. He prayed that we would not have to face the penalty of our sins. We would not have to face the tests and reality and weight of our separation from God.

Then in the same breath He intercedes to us on God’s behalf. “Not my will but yours.” God wants us to know His will. God wants us to know the reality of His nature. God wants you to know His love. Jesus is interceding for both humanity and God in one prayer. Jesus does this so that the sacrifice that He is making will bear fruit that will last for all eternity.

For our part we are to follow Jesus in His example of prayer. We are to intercede for all people. We are to lift them up to God, not out of obedience or fear, but out of love. We do not just do this for people we love. No, we are called to do this for all people. I went to the Monastery of Christ in the Desert this last week for some spiritual renewal. A lot of people think that monks and nuns do not do much because all they do is pray. I want you to know that they are doing exceedingly more than you can imagine. They are praying for the world. They truly believe in the power of prayer and they create a lifestyle that allows them to pray and intercede for the world, just as Christ did on the Mount of Olives. They not only interceded on behalf of their friends, but also their enemies. They reveal a lifestyle of prayer that is open for people to see. They are praying for us without stopping. They do this because they know we struggle with this part of our spiritual life. They do this out of love.

The Spirit of God tells us, “We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6) How do you fight a spiritual battle? Through prayer. Prayer is at the forefront of everything we do. From worship to work to sleep we do it in prayer because we are on the front lines of a spiritual battle. We fight the cosmic forces of evil by interceding on behalf of a world who needs the love of Jesus Christ in their lives. Jesus is about to face the biggest evil in the world; pain and death. Do you think He is going face this fight without being prepared? He is praying so hard and so intently that He begins to sweat blood.

When Jesus prayed, He was praying for strength to stand against all evil and sin. Because of this an angel came and strengthened Him. You see our passage states, “He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” The word “anguish” in greek is the word agonia. It does not mean pain or suffering, but struggle as athletes do when they train and perform. Jesus is struggling or wrestling with sin and darkness. Its kinda like in the movie Rocky who is facing Apollo Creed. Creed seems to be the stronger, but Rocky stands up to Creed and defeats him, with Micky standing in the corner encouraging him. Jesus is in the fight for all the lives in the world and He is struggling to the point of sweating blood with an angel in His corner encouraging and strengthening Him. When we intercede we enter into the struggle against sin and evil with Jesus Christ.

Prayer moves us to action. This prayer was His preparation for His action. For at the same moment of His prayer evil was moving against Him. He was going to be given up and crucified for the sake of the world. He was going to be beaten, spit on, mocked, whipped, cut, bruised, and nailed to the cross exposed and humiliated. His prayer moved Him toward action. Through His prayer he was prepared for the coming day. He entered into His suffering with peace and love. Even when those who harmed Him suffered He healed them. Notice Him healing the man who’s ear was cut off. Notice the assurance He gave to the man on the cross with Him. Notice how He spoke, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Prayer moved Jesus to be able to do all this.

Prayer that does not move us to love our God and our neighbor is not true prayer. You see prayer is the ministry and mission of Love because in prayer we intercede and move to bring love in the world. And we do this for all people, not just the good ones. We are to lift up all people in our prayers. We are to intercede and be moved to love all people. If we do not do this then we are showing our true love, fear. We do not pray out of obedience either. If we pray for all people or show them favor out of obedience then what good are we. We do it begrudgingly. No, we are to do all things out of love.

We can only do all things out of love through prayer. This is why Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you.” (Matthew 5) And the Spirit tells us, “Bless people who harass you – bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12) How are we ever able to do all this without prayer. Prayer that is genuine and persistent. Prayer that is powerful and can change things. Prayer that reveals the image of the Ever-loving God. Prayer that wants to do God’s will, “to unite all things, in heaven and on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We do not shrink in fear to love as Christ loves. We do it because we pray. We pray that our fears are taken from us. We pray to be transformed. We pray for our loved ones. We pray for our enemies. We pray for ourselves. We pray for the world to be unified through Jesus Christ. We pray so that we may love. We love because we were created to love. We were created to love so that God may be glorified in all that we do. We glorify God in all that we do so that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit may be known in all of creation.

Is the world how it should be? Do you like the world that we have made? Would you change the world if you could? The Good News is that God can change the world in prayer because prayer is the ministry and mission of love.

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