“It Is Finished”

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Just before Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew everything written about Him in the law had been completed and all of the prophecies about Him had been fulfilled. Jesus knew this to be true but no one else standing there would have said “Aha!” because of that statement. But Jesus left no doubt for any of us when He next said, “It is finished!

These three English words are just one word in Greek: tetelestai. It’s in the perfect tense, telling us that nothing more needs to be added to Christ’s work. It not only shares the same root word that John uses for completed and fulfilled, but it closes the circle of another dying declaration of Jesus when He quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His “It is finished” statement is also the last verse of Psalm 22.

The root word telos translated as completed, fulfilled, and finished has a very rich meaning. Here are three definitions we should consider: 

(1) To complete or bring to a conclusion

Jesus told His Father that He had finished (telos) His mission (John 17:4). Q: How do we know His mission was completed? A: Jesus sat down! Think about this: There were no chairs in the Old Testament temple because a priest never rested, there was always more work to do. But when Jesus finished His work, He sat down (see Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12). 

(2) To discharge a debt

Since Jesus was the only One who could make the final “once for all” payment, that means that we were hopeless debtors prior to that. God foretold of His forgiveness using the picturesque language of a debt being “doubled up” when it was paid in full (see this video where I explain this concept more fully). Here’s what Jesus did: 

Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This note with its regulations, decrees, and demands He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP) 

Q: How do we know the debt was paid in full? A: The curtain that had separated us from God’s presence was torn in two.

(3) To fill up what’s missing

In this case, Jesus took what was missing by switching cups with us. He drank the cup of God’s righteous wrath—which was justly ours—and gave us His cup of righteousness in its place! (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Matthew 26:39).  

Q: How do we know we have a cup of righteousness in place of a cup of wrath? A: Dead saints of God were resurrected when Jesus died. “It is finished” was not Jesus giving up, but death giving up … it was not Jesus defeated, but death defeated! 

Jesus paid it all! There is nothing I can do to add to His completed—tetelestai—work, so I can now do what formerly was impossible: I can live a holy life for God’s glory. I can now finish (telos) my race on earth and receive the rewards God has stored up for me (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Christ’s tetelestai confession is our empowerment to live holy! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the dying declarations of Jesus, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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“I Am Thirsty”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Jesus has just broken a 3-hour silence with His megaphone-voice cry: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Now His final three statements will follow in rather short order, beginning with, “I am thirsty.”

It might seem trivial that Jesus expressed His desire for a drink, especially since He also knew that there was no thirst-quenching water nearby. Far from being trivial, however, this was eternally important because it completed His mission. 

Before saying, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew “that all was now completed.” The Greek word for know is sometimes translated as “see” and sometimes “know.” When it’s “see” it’s always in the past tense—“saw” or “have seen.” Perhaps in His 3-hour silence, Jesus was reviewing His earthly life, looking back to see what He had accomplished. Make no mistake about it, Jesus was on-mission for all 30+ years of His life in Israel. 

But now that He has seen His life, He “knows.” This word is in the perfect tense. He’s seen it all and He knows He has accomplished all He set out to complete. As He had told His audience earlier in His life, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till ALL is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). 

In looking back on His life, Jesus saw one final thing: He needed to be given vinegar to drink just as David prophesied (Psalm 69:13-21). With that sour sip, ALL the Ts are crossed and ALL the Is are dotted! 

When John writes, “Knowing all was now completed, and so the Scripture would be fulfilled,” he uses the Greek word which means mission accomplished! 

Why did Jesus need to fulfill ALL the prophecies and complete ALL the law? Check out His earlier statement from the Amplified Bible: “For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook identifying certain Hebrew letters will pass from the Law until all things it FORESHADOWS are accomplished.” 

The law was just our temporary guardian and the temple practices were just a shadow of the realities of Heaven (see Galatians 3:23-25; Hebrews 10:1-10). ALL of them were merely pointing to Jesus, so Jesus made sure ALL of them were completed. 

His “I am thirsty” statement was really His “Amen” to His completed mission. 

Jesus fulfilled every Scripture so that we could stand on every promise! 

Check this out: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

The shadows of the law were turned into the substance on which we can come boldly before the throne of God’s grace! In just three words—“I am thirsty”—Jesus completed His mission for God’s glory and for our eternal help! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on the dying confessions of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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The Sin Of Man, The Salvation Of Jesus

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“Jesus is risen indeed!” This is the glorious good news that Christians around the world celebrate. 

But good news is really only good news when you fully realize how bad the bad news was. Like when the doctor comes in to tell you, “You’re going to be fine,” and you breathe a sigh of relief. And then the doctor goes on to explain what your condition was and all of the heroic efforts that were undertaken on your behalf, and you realize how close to death you actually were that your sigh of relief turns into a shout of joy! 

The resurrection of Jesus is the good news that brings us eternal life. But instead of merely breathing a sigh of relief thinking, “I shall not perish but have everlasting life,” let’s take a look at how close we were to everlasting death. 

Our fourth foundational belief says: “Man was created good and upright…. However, man by voluntary transgression fell and thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God.” 

Adam and Eve were given a choice: they were able not to sin and they were able to sin. God gave them dominion over everything in His creation but themselves, and He made them to be personally and intimately connected with Himself. But satan tempted them to take dominion over themselves, saying that they would become like God.

They sinned. “And sure enough, they then had knowledge of good and evil, but it was from the standpoint of becoming evil and remembering how good they once were,” said Nancy Guthrie. Because they sinned, now all of us are unable not to sin. Why? Because no one has been able to demonstrate to us how to be able not to sin. 

Their sin had consequences for them that have extended to us:

  • they felt shame at their vulnerability before God
  • they were fearful to be in God’s presence 
  • they were separated from God  
  • and they doomed all of us to live an utterly meaningless existence forever! 

But Adam and Eve’s sin didn’t send God scrambling for a remedy. Our fifth foundational truth says: “Man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” 

Jesus turned the absolutely worst news into the most eternally, overwhelmingly good news ever! 

Jesus was made the cure for sin from before the foundation of the world. God made Jesus to be our sin (not just to carry our sins). In order for this to happen, Jesus had to become human like us. That means that Jesus, like Adam and Eve, had the same choice to sin or to not sin but He did not sin. This allowed Him to be our perfect sacrifice on the Cross. 

When He died on the Cross, Jesus removed the uncrossable abyss between us and God. Jesus made it possible once again for us to be able not to sin. Not only that, but Jesus covers the shame that would linger even after our sin is forgiven by clothing us in His own righteousness! 

(check out all of the biblical references for the above points by clicking here)

Sin had us doomed to not only a meaningless existence on earth, but also to an utterly meaningless existence for the eternity following death. Jesus became our sin to allow us to be reunited with God and reclothed in Christ’s righteousness. This is not just good news, it’s eternally, overwhelmingly good news! 

If you’ve missed the discussion of any of our other foundational truths, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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“Dear Woman”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

The crucifixion of Jesus lasted about six hours. This was mercifully short compared to what typically happened to crucifixion victims. It was hard enough for Jesus to get enough air just to breathe, let alone enough air to talk, so His words are few but precious! From 9:00 until about noon, He speaks three times; from noon until about 3:00, He has no recorded words; at 3:00 there are four final statements that come pretty close together. 

As Jesus speaks His final declaration before wordlessly suffering for the next three hours, let’s take a look at who was there. They were people who deeply cared about Jesus, and people about whom Jesus deeply cared: His mother, His aunt, the mother of one of His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and His beloved disciple John. 

Also notable was who wasn’t present on Golgotha: none of Christ’s siblings or other close relatives. 

This last word from Jesus before His long silence was an incredibly loving word. As the oldest of His siblings, and with His earthly father Joseph dead, Jesus had head-of-the-household responsibilities, especially the care of His mother Mary. 

When Jesus speaks to her, He says, “Dear woman.” This is a term of kindness, respect, and endearment. To both His mother and to John, there is a Greek word that is omitted in some English translations of the Bible: Behold. Since Christ’s words were at a premium, this word was Jesus saying, “Listen very closely. Pay careful attention to this important word I’m about to speak.” 

To His mother, Jesus says, “Dear woman, behold your son.” Jesus was saying, here is one on whom you can depend. And to His dear friend Jesus says, “Behold your mother.” Literally, Jesus was asking John to care for Mary as though she were his own biological mother. 

Think about the dying declarations we’ve already heard. To those who treated Him so horribly, Jesus said, Father, forgive them.” This was a word of forgiveness that required agape love. To the hardened criminal crucified next to Him, Jesus said, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” This was a word of salvation that also required agape love. 

Agape love is only possible in a regenerated heart. It’s an utterly selfless love that Jesus described this way: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To forgive the unforgivable, to grant salvation to a lifelong criminal, takes the other-worldly agape love. We expect this from Jesus. 

But there are two other loves in this scene. When Jesus says, “Dear woman,” He is expressing this natural love of son to mother. This Greek love is labeled storgé. C.S. Lewis calls this “the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves.” To His dear friend John, Jesus speaks a word of philos love. C.S. Lewis says philos is “the love between friends as close as siblings in strength and duration [and] the least natural of loves.” 

Jesus cared deeply for His mother and He deeply trusted His friend John. This tells me an important truth: Jesus doesn’t just care about spiritual things. 

In fact, there isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too: “He had to be made like [us] fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). 

Sadly, I think we frequently hold on to some cares because we think they are too small or too insignificant—or maybe “unspiritual”—so we think they are unworthy of Christ’s attention. Let me say it again: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too! 

Jesus intercedes before the Father’s throne of grace on our behalf. He knows exactly what to ask for because He experienced all of our earthly pains Himself. Then the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit into our hearts to give us the love and strength we need (see Hebrews 4:14-16; Romans 5:5). 

When Jesus showed us His full love—storgé, philos, and agape—He made it possible for us to fulfill His command: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). 

Jesus showed every kind of love so that we can live every kind of love! As we live as love-filled people, we show others the path to Christ’s love for their own love-starved hearts. 

Jesus spoke this loving declaration from the Cross to show us that His love covers any need that we have to encounter. Let me repeat it again so that you don’t forget it: There isn’t anything that you care about that Jesus doesn’t feel too!

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series on the dying declarations of Jesus from the Cross, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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“Today You Will Be With Me In Paradise”

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Dying declarations are powerful statements!

As Jesus was nailed to the Cross, His first dying declaration prompted such a change of heart in a hardened criminal that the criminal’s own dying declaration caused Jesus to say, “Amen!” The story is found in Luke 23:32-43.

But first, we need to ask, why were criminals crucified alongside Jesus? An obvious answer is that it fulfilled a First Testament prophecy—He poured out His life unto death, and He let Himself be regarded as a criminal and be numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). 

How did this come about? Maybe…

  • Pilate was trying to justify his actions? 
  • the Sanhedrin had used these criminals as “evidence” that Jesus was stirring up a rebellion against the crown? 
  • a Roman centurion suggested, “Let’s kill three birds with one stone”? 

Whatever the case, they couldn’t have been very happy about this, especially since Barabbas (a fellow criminal) had just been released. They probably blamed Jesus for their awful predicament, so they naturally joined in the mockery. 

And what cruel mockery it was! 

  • the people stood watching these crucifixions and, since Luke uses the word for a sports spectator, it appears they were cheering the bloodshed they were observing
  • the Pharisees and Sadducees derided Jesus
  • the Roman soldiers continued the inhuman mockery and abuse that they had begun hours before 
  • the criminals crucified on either side of Jesus blasphemed Him 

Luke kindly records that only one criminal was hurling insults at Jesus, but Matthew and Mark make it clear that both criminals were blaspheming Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32). 

It appears that one criminal, although at first a blasphemer, had a change of heart. 

Perhaps it was because He heard this Jesus, who was being so horribly mistreated, ask His Father to forgive His tormentors instead of asking for retribution. The apostle Peter says that when we follow Christ’s example in this it can actually make people become ashamed of their slander against us (1 Peter 2:23; 3:14, 16). 

Or perhaps this criminal had been in the crowd earlier that week on Monday when Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God all day. If he was, he would have heard Jesus talk about the rewards for the righteous and the punishment for the wicked, and he would have heard Jesus talk about how even criminals like himself could be allowed into God’s Kingdom (Matthew 21:28-32). 

All of this was working on him until his own slander against Jesus stuck in his throat and he rebuked his companion for his blasphemy. He said, “We are guilty and deserve this death sentence. But this Man is totally innocent!” 

Then turning to Jesus, he delivers his faith-filled declaration, “LORD Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He called Him Lord, asked for a reward, and acknowledged that Christ’s Kingdom was not of this earth. This dying declaration was more faith-filled than even the disciples of Jesus could make, since all but one of them had fled in fear!

Jesus is so moved by this man’s declaration that His first word to him is Amen: “I tell you the truth [literally: Amen!], today you will be with Me in paradise. 

King David taught us that the sacrifice that God accepts is a broken heart, and the apostle Paul agrees by saying that it is the heart change and the confession of our mouth that brings our salvation (Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 10:4-11). 

My friend, Jesus has opened the way to Paradise for you by His death on the Cross. When our humbled hearts speak the truth about God’s Kingdom, Jesus says, “Amen!” and God welcomes us into His presence for ever and ever! Don’t wait another day, but cry out to Jesus today: tell Him that you are guilty, but you believe He has paid for your sins. He will then say the same word to your heart: “Amen! You will spend eternity in Paradise with Me!” 

If you would like to follow along as we look at all seven of the dying declarations Jesus made from the Cross, please click here. 

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“Father, Forgive Them”

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In our system of law, special attention is given to someone’s dying declaration. If our legal system gives such weight to the last words of an imperfect man, it seems to me that we should take special note of the dying declarations of the only truly innocent Man who ever walked this earth: Jesus Christ. 

After being nailed to the Cross, the first dying declaration from Jesus was: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). 

Let’s say that Billy is dying on a hospital bed after being fatally shot, and all he can muster the strength to do is point at Johnny and whisper, “He… shot… me….” We would know who the “he” was in that situation, but who exactly is the “them” in this declaration of Jesus? 

Who offended Jesus? Who mortally wounded Him? Who caused Him such anguish? Maybe it was…

  • His disciples who couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him 
  • Judas who betrayed Him with a kiss 
  • the nine disciples who ran away 
  • Peter who denied three times that he knew Jesus 
  • the false witnesses in Caiaphas’ house
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who hit Him and spit on Him 
  • the members of the Sanhedrin who were silent 
  • the temple guards who mocked Him 
  • those who spewed lies when Jesus stood before Pilate
  • those who lied about Jesus when He stood before Herod 
  • Herod and his soldiers who mocked Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who abused Him 
  • the Roman soldiers who stripped Him naked and crucified Him 

To all of the above, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them”!  

Listen to how Peter described the response of Jesus to all of this: When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats… (1 Peter 2:23). That word for insults means to heap abuse on Him or to pile on. This was a fulfillment of a 700-year-old prophecy: He was oppressed and afflicted… (Isaiah 53:7). Isaiah uses similar words, where oppressed means tyrannized, and afflicted means a humiliating, painful loss of dignity. 

Christ’s own disciples afflicted Him, and so did the temple guards, and Pilate, and King Herod, and the Roman soldiers… and you and me. All of this mistreatment and humiliation and tyrannizing was handed out by us too (see Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 2:24-25). That’s why His arms were spread so wide when He said, “Father, forgive them,” because there were so many that needed forgiveness! 

When Jesus said forgive, He was asking His Father to take away our guilt that kept us out of God’s presence. Think of a courtroom scene where God the Father is the Judge, satan is the prosecutor, Jesus is the victim, and I am the defendant. The evidence is overwhelming and incontrovertible, and I am pronounced guilty. My punishment is a death sentence. When Jesus says, “Father, forgive him,” He is taking the death penalty in my place! 

In another beautiful fulfillment of an Old Testament practice, Jesus became both our sin offering and our scapegoat, making atonement for us at the mercyseat in the Most Holy Place, and allowing us to be welcomed into God’s holy presence (Leviticus 16:15-16, 20-22; Hebrews 9:12-14). 

When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” He was saying, “Father, bring them into Your presence!” 

You and I need to accept by faith the atoning work done on the Cross, the forgiveness of sins that was purchased for us. Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to lovingly restore us, and for that we are eternally and humbly grateful. 

Please don’t miss out on any of these dying declarations from Jesus. You can find my thoughts on all of the confessions of this dying Man by clicking here.

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Confessions Of A Dying Man

In our justice system, rarely will a judge allow hearsay testimony to be introduced in court. But there is one notable exception: a dying declaration. 

A dying declaration is the statement of a mortally injured person who is aware he or she is about to die. This statement is admissible testimony in court on the theory that a dying person has no reason not to tell the truth. 

Jesus was nailed to a Cross. Mortally injured, unable to escape, He had no reason to lie. In His dying moments, struggling to get enough air in His lungs to be able to speak, Jesus choked out seven statements that still have a profound impact on us today. 

Join us this Sunday as we learn the invaluable lessons from the confessions of a dying Man. I would love to have you join us in person or on Facebook. 

Here are the confessions of Jesus we have already discussed:

The Deity And Divinity Of Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Some really silly guys did a series of videos called “Neature Walk” because they wanted to share how neat is nature! In episode one Vic sees a tree that he really likes and says, “Score! This is an aspen tree. You can that it’s an aspen tree because of the way it is.” This is either circular reasoning or an obvious statement. “Just look at this thing. You can tell it’s this thing because it looks and acts like this thing.” 

I feel a lot like this when I look at the first part of our third foundational truth statement: “We believe in the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (As a side note, I covered the second part of this statement—“As God’s Son, Jesus was both human and divine”—in another post, which you may find here.) 

Check this out: the definition for Deity is the divine character of God, and the definition for divine means things relating to the Deity. In saying we believe Jesus is God we are really saying, “You can tell that Jesus is God because of the way He is.” 

In order to make this definition work, we need evidence for both the divinity and the deity of Jesus. That being said, let me remind you of J. Warner Wallace’s instruction on faith. There is:

  • Blind faith—believing in something without evidence 
  • Unreasonable faith—believing in something in spite of the evidence 
  • Reasonable faith—believing in something because of the evidence 

Here is some evidence that I think makes it reasonable to believe that Jesus is divine:

  1. Virgin birth—Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34-35; Matthew 1:22-23 
  2. Sinless life—Isaiah 53:4-6, 9; Hebrews 7:26-27; 1 Peter 2:22 
  3. Miracles—Acts 10:38; 2:22-24 
  4. Death, resurrection, exaltation—Isaiah 53:10-12; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 1:3 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.) 

I think the best evidence for the Deity of Jesus is the connection He Himself made between the “Jehovah” titles of the First Testament and His “I AM” statements in the Second Testament:

  • Jehovah Jireh (I Am Your Provider) → I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  • Jehovah Rapha (I Am Your Healing) → I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  • Jehovah Nissi (I Am Your Source) → I am the Vine (John 15:5)
  • Jehovah Shalom (I Am Your Peace) → I am the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  • Jehovah Raah (I Am Your Shepherd) → I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (I Am Your Wall Of Protection) → I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  • Jehovah Tsid-kenu (I Am Your Righteousness) → I am the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6)
  • Jehovah Shammah (I Am Here) → I am the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13). 

(Check out all the Scriptural references listed above by clicking here.)

The Jewish leadership understood perfectly what Jesus was claiming! But the more pertinent question is this: Do we understand what we must do with this evidence? 

We cannot claim that Jesus was born of a virgin, or lived a sinless life, or did miracles, or died and rose again and then not believe He is God. We cannot pick and choose the parts of Jesus we want. 

The apostle Paul reminded us that someday “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11-12). 

Every knee will bow to Him one day: Either in worship of Jesus their Savior, or in abject terror of Jesus their Judge. 

I pray that you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior today… don’t wait another moment! 

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If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Foundational Stones series, which is exploring our foundational beliefs, you may access all of them by clicking here.

Persistent And Insistent Prayer

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When I first began this series on prayer, I challenged all of us to make prayer a habit. I suggested putting up “Have I prayed about it?” Post-It Notes all over the place to get us thinking about prayer continually. 

“Have I prayed about it?” is a great start. But then I need to ask, “How long have I prayed about it?” or maybe even, “How long am I willing to pray about it?” 

Thomas Merton wrote, “What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?” In other words, why do we go through the motions of praying and then strike out on our own? Or why do we pray for a little bit and then think, “Oh, perhaps God isn’t interested in this prayer”? 

In Romans 12:12, the apostle Paul challenged us to never stop praying:

  • faithful in prayer (NIV) 
  • constant in prayer (AMP) 
  • prayerful always (TLB) 
  • continuing steadfastly (NKJV) 

This verb emphasizes the –ing part. Even though this is a verb, it’s what is known as a “verbal noun”: the noun pray is the same thing as the verb praying. 

This Greek word is defined as: devoted, giving unremitting care to something, being courageous in perseverance, and staying at constant readiness. I would sum it up this way—

Prayer that is both persistent and insistent! 

When Jesus teaches us that the motive for our prayer is, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done,” He is also implying that this requires continuous—persistent and insistent—involvement. With every prayer, we are persistently and insistently advancing God’s Kingdom and God’s glory. 

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels is of a persistent and insistent mother. Her daughter was in desperate need, and she simply would not take “no” for an answer. She insistently kept asking Jesus for a miraculous touch, and Jesus finally said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.”

I’m also moved by the insistent and persistent prayer of Nehemiah. He prayed, “Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of [King Artaxerxes].” He prayed this every day for over 4 months. The king finally noticed Nehemiah’s downcast face, asked him what was wrong, and then “because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.”  

Nehemiah kept praying for 120 days or more, believing every day God would open the door of favor. In the meantime, God was moving things into place so that when Artaxerxes finally noticed Nehemiah’s downcast face, and Nehemiah shared what was on his heart, the king granted every single request! 

Friends, don’t be timid in your prayers and don’t give up praying. P.U.S.H.—Pray Until Something Happens. Pray for God’s glory to be seen, for His kingdom to advance on earth, and for His will to be done. 

Prayer starts it, prayer sustains it, prayer successfully concludes it! 

Let me say it again: DON’T STOP PRAYING! 

If you missed any of the messages in our Be A First Responder series, you may access all of them by clicking here.

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First In Forgiveness

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From David’s bookend prayers to Jesus making prayer the central, empowering practice of the Christian lifestyle, I hope you’re beginning to see that prayer starts it, prayer sustains it, prayer successfully concludes it! 

There is another thing both David and Jesus agree upon. They both tell us that there is one thing that can block our prayer: unconfessed, unrepented sin. 

David wrote, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” The Hebrew word translated “regard” means to be aware of something. David teaches us that we have to be made aware of our sin in order to confess our sin and ask forgiveness. We become aware of our sin through prayer and reading the Bible (Psalm 139:23; James 1:25; Romans 7:7-12). 

The NIV translates the same Hebrew word in Psalm 66:18 as “cherished.” After becoming aware of our sin, we have to be careful not to make excuses or justifications for it. And then the NLT translates the same word “not confessed.” After becoming aware of our sin and accepting responsibility for it, then we can confess it to God. 

In teaching us to pray, Jesus said our forgiveness of others had a direct correlation to the forgiveness we would receive from our Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:12, 14-15). Jesus further expounds this thought when He tells Peter to forgive others “seventy times seven times”; in other words: countless times. 

Think of it this way: Have you asked God’s forgiveness more than seven times? How about more than seven times for the same sin? I have! So Jesus is really asking Peter, “Do you want God to put a limit on how many times He will forgive you? If not, then don’t you put a limit on how many times you will forgive others.” 

The Amplified Bible has a great definition of forgiveness in Matthew 6:12—left, remitted, let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against. The Hebrew word David uses in Psalm 32:1 has a similar feel—lifted up, taken away, carried off. 

Our forgiven sins are forgotten sins. Every time we come to God for forgiveness, it’s like it is the first time. And Jesus says this is the same way we need to treat others. 

Let’s all strive to be first responders in confessing our own debts to God so we can be forgiven, AND then let’s also be first responders in forgiving the debts others have incurred against us. 

As I’ve said before: A mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between awareness of his sin and making his confession of that sin. 

But this is just as true: 

A mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between being injured and forgiving the offender. 

We do this again and again and again—countless times!—because that’s how often our Heavenly Father forgives us. 

Be a first responder in both asking for forgiveness and giving forgiveness.
Don’t let your debts block your prayers.
Don’t let your unreceived forgiveness weigh you down.
Don’t let your ungiven forgiveness weigh others down.

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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