I can only speak for myself, but I’m certain that what I have to say is true of you as well. I truly love the Lord Jesus Christ. He is so very precious to me. I love what He did for me; I love His Word; I love speaking to Him; I love that I’ll be spending all my eternity with Him and all other believers in glory. What I struggle with is the confidence in prayer that my God hears and answers prayer … yet at the same time I find I am not that cautious when it comes to sin. Far too often the ‘old man of flesh’ sticks his neck out limiting the ‘new man in Christ’ to flourish in the discipline of intimacy in prayer. Does what I have just said resonate with you too?
John Bunyan said: “He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.” That captures “confidence in prayer yet not cautious enough with sin”. Failure in prayer will guarantee failure in holiness. Bunyan was two to three months short of 60 when he died in 1688 … and he could say that about prayer … and all these years later, even with all the electricity at a switch, water on tap, the speed of fibre, access to libraries, fast transport on land, sea and sky … we still neglect prayer as lovers of Jesus … and daily fall into the trap of sin … often more serious than we would ever want anyone to know about … yet God knows! Now how does one get to the point where there is absolute confidence in prayer and great caution with sin? Join me as we look at four Scripture passages to try and help us answer the question and practice intentional Christianity in the privacy of ‘my’ individual life before God.
1Jn2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
When you feel you are so rotten that God turns His face from you, remember this passage. God requires holiness but knows that on this earth we will sin. He therefore says: “so that you will not sin” … “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” As you are aware, “the one who speaks to the Father in our defense” … is the defending advocate who speaks to the Judge on our behalf. He is Jesus! It’s almost as if, when we sin and we forget to seek pardon, Jesus is there to speak on our behalf. This ought not to generate laxness on our side or that we become abusive in that when I sin, we feel we don’t need to worry because in Jesus I have a backdoor to the Father. Jesus’ defense here is more about the sin I am not aware of … or perhaps forgot.
Heb 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Never forget that God wants holiness … and we need to ‘make every effort’ to achieve what God wants through practical, intentional, obedience … not for salvation, but because of salvation. Yet, praise God that in our state on earth we are growing and seeking and trying to honour our Lord in every way, and when He gazes our way He sees Jesus. Jesus’ blood covers our persistent sin! But once in glory, our Father will see us as He sees His Son Jesus. Then we will be perfect practically!
1Sa 15:22 But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
Far too many still want to earn God’s favour through religious practices, rituals, holy tea, holy water, holy oil … for some they think church attendance, tithing, service, etc. substitute for holy obedience. Too many want to ‘do things’ to appease God, yet live in the deepest debauchery. Notice what God wants … obedience … to what? To His voice (Word). God wants faithful obedience to the teaching in the Bible. It does not count that you try everything in the Book to please God but yet live in some form of willing disobedience to God.
Ps 66:18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
This is what blocks prayer and blocks answers to prayer. Loving sin and making sure that sin is embedded into your heart is willful rebellion and defiance against God. Do you see how confidence in prayer is linked to being cautious with sin?
Look at the one who is cautious to avoid sin and rather seeks confidence in intimate prayer:
Ps 66:19 but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. 20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
Dear God, please help me not to take Your mercy and grace for granted. Help me to be cautious with sin so that I might walk in holiness and experience confidence in approaching You in prayer. For Christ’s sake, Amen.