Monday, October 26, 2015

Ask in the Name and Right of the Son

Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive it, so that your joy may be complete. — John 16:24

During the Civil War, a man had an only son who enlisted in the armies of the Union. The father was a banker and, although he consented to his son’s going, it seemed as if it would break his heart to let him go.

He became deeply interested in the soldier boys, and whenever he saw a uniform, his heart went out as he thought of his own dear boy. He spent his time, neglected his business, gave his money to caring for the soldiers who came home invalid. His friends remonstrated with him, saying he had no right to neglect his business and spend so much thought upon the soldiers, so he fully decided to give it all up.

After he had come to this decision, there stepped into his bank one day a private soldier in a faded, worn uniform, who showed in his face and hands the marks of the hospital.

The poor fellow was fumbling in his pocket to get something or other, when the banker saw him and, perceiving his purpose, said to him:

“My dear fellow, I cannot do anything for you today. I am extremely busy. You will have to go to your headquarters; the officers there will look after you.”

Still the poor convalescent stood, not seeming to fully understand what was said to him. Still he fumbled in his pockets and, by and by, drew out a scrap of dirty paper, on which there were a few lines written with a pencil, and laid this soiled sheet before the banker. On it he found these words:

“Dear Father: “This is one of my comrades who was wounded in the last fight, and has been in the hospital. Please receive him as myself. — Charlie.”

In a moment all the resolutions of indifference which this man made, flew away. He took the boy to his palatial home, put him in Charlie’s room, gave him Charlie’s seat at the table, kept him until food and rest and love had brought him back to health, and then sent him back again to imperil his life for the flag.

— Selected (from Streams in the Desert)


Anonymous said...

on prayer:
Does God hear the prayers of sinners? I have heard some people say that all a person has to do is believe in Jesus - nothing else matters. Well, if this is the case, then the demons who believe in Jesus will be saved with the righteous (James 2:19). Moreover, if this is true then anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God can be a thief, murderer, pedophile, or anything else that is sinful and expect God to hear and subsequently answer their prayers. Concerning this question we learn in John 9:31: "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." So, if God does not hear the prayers of sinners, then we must conclude that sinners will not have their prayers answered by God. But this does not negate the fact that God created the inner man to seek (grope) after Him; therefore, all men can come to the knowledge of God to salvation (Acts 17:26-28; I Tim. 2:4; Rom. 1:16).

What confidence do we have in prayer? Some folks hold the position that as long as we pray to God and believe that we already have that for which we ask, He will answer our prayer per our request. If this were so, a righteous man praying that he would never die would be immortal upon this earth. Not even the apostles had every prayer answered as they wished. Paul prayed that his thorn in the flesh be removed, but it was not. Concerning prayer, we are instructed to have full confidence without doubting when we pray for wisdom. God has promised that He will give Christians wisdom if they ask, have faith, and do not doubt (James 1:3-8). For the other things we ask of God in prayer, our confidence is that He hears us. John says in I John 5:14: "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." So we have a two fold confidence in prayer. First, if we ask for wisdom in faith without doubting, God will give us wisdom. Second, if we ask for anything according to His will, we are confident that He hears our prayer. With this two fold confidence from the Father of lights who desires only good for His children, who or what can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing (Rom. 8:18-39).

Loy Mershimer said...

Some good things in your post, friend. However, there are also some things that could be misleading.

First, truly you are correct that it takes more than cognitive belief. One of the problems in this arena is that people read the Scripture through 20th and 21st century lens, making the words mean something far different than intended. Passages like “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” are taken at current, simplistic and superficial face value: “It says just believe!” etc. – without ever asking, “What does the word BELIEVE mean in this biblical usage?” The biblical word means far more than cognitive acceptance. It also calls forth trust and commitment – head to heart, mind to life, and brain to whole person.

Second, there are some things said here that need further clarification – and since you seem to like digging down beneath the surface, I’ll jump in. (This will be a longish, but worthwhile discussion involving principles of interpreting Scripture, as there are some assumptions being made that apparently gloss over the hermeneutical pitfalls.)

It is asked, “Does God hear the prayer of sinners?” Then, John 9:31 is referenced as a proof text: "Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him." Which immediately leads to this conclusion: “If God does not hear the prayers of sinners, then we must conclude that sinners will not have their prayers answered by God.”
Here’s where the digging down is required.

Two key words in John 9:31 – HEAR and SINNER.

First, the word “hear.” Does this mean that God cannot hear what sinners pray, in an absolute sense? Or, using the range of meaning inherent in the word, does it rather mean that God “refuses acceptance or audience?” – as *hearing* in a legal sense? Surely, God who is omniscient, omnipresent, who cannot be escaped even in the depths of Sheol (Psalm 139:8) must also hear every word on our tongue (Ps. 139:4, Heb. 4:13). So, God hears but He doesn’t *hear* the prayers of certain sinners: A refusal of audience.

Second, the word “sinner.” Is this also flat, absolute term? Or is it qualified by the biblical range of meaning inherent in the word, and elucidated by context, immediate and larger? People do the same thing with the word “sinner” as they do with the word “believe.” But this word is also a rich biblical word, which can mean anything from “one who misses the mark” and falls short of God’s glory, or one who is reprobate, apportioned for destruction. If one flattens the word using current lens, taking its superficial meaning and absolutizing it, they can make it as false as they do with “belief that saves.”

Loy Mershimer said...

Taking John 9:31 as a proof text, and then sliding right into a necessary statement, without understanding or addressing the range of meaning in the word – acting as if it is flat, simplistic and absolute, whenever it isn’t – will lead to some faulty conclusions.

If we take all of Scripture as the surround-sound hermeneutic for this text, we can see that God indeed does hear sinners – at least of a certain kind. And, we can see that God indeed refuses the prayer of sinners – of a certain kind.

The man speaking here in John 9:31 is taking a word that they have used to describe Jesus, and he uses that word to disprove their case against Christ – the context shows that they are taking of blasphemous sinners: those who ascribe the works of darkness to God, who are reprobated and hardened from God – a charge for which they will eventually kill Jesus. The blind man is mocking their blindness (and professing nascent faith in Christ).

The man is not taking the generic word “sinners” and created an absolute term, and thus a theology of God never hearing any type of sinner! Which is how that text is treated – if we use it for a proof text for God not hearing sinners.

If one absolutizes this word, and this proof text, the only thing they would end up *proving* is that God hears NO humans – for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. “There is none righteous, no not one!”

And, the same psalmist that prays, “Recompense me according to my cleanness of hands. Answer me because of my righteousness!” later prays, “I have been a sinner since my mother’s womb.” Graphic clarity of his own heart, in retrospect, shows that indeed, God does hear sinners of a certain kind, in the grace of the Son.

Now, are there sinners of a kind that God will not hear? Yep. Again, Scripture makes it clear which kind: Those whom are hardened to destruction, to whom God sends strong delusion that they should believe a lie,” because, although knowing about God, and COGNITING His righteous power and holiness, yet they turn away to worship themselves, and lesser entities.

Just tossing this out there! So that Scripture becomes its own hermeneutic, in the power of the Spirit: Word written interpreted in the Word made flesh.

There’s so much more to say here on principles of interpretation, which may be worthwhile, but maybe another day! God bless you on your journey of righteousness! I appreciate your words and heart.

Blessings and ttyl!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the clarification. Sometimes philosophies are hard to reconcile. I so appreciate any input you have. I am blessed by the time you take to teach an infant Jesuit like me. The journey can be difficult but always worth the effort. I seek to serve the Most High as He would have me do. I am still learning what that entails.
He cared so much. Most of mankind returns that favor with scorn and self-interpretations. I seek to know Him, only through the True Word, in True Context and everlasting Life in His Service.
Peace be with you brother.

Loy Mershimer said...

You are very welcome!

Please be encouraged on your journey. It's not hard to understand, in the core. Humans make it hard, by saying all sorts of conflicting things in the name of Christ and His Word. But real faith is so basic! We take all of God, and give Him all of ourselves, following Jesus as Lord and Savior of the Cosmos. And we let Him and His Word be our truth, letting it interpret itself for us, enlightened by His Spirit.

We are promised that if we come like a little child, we will most certainly enter the kingdom. And that His Spirit will teach us, and guide us in all truth.

When we approach His Word, if we are led by the Spirit, we will let the Word stand on its own meaning, and refuse to read our meaning (or pet hobbyhorse) into it. And we will let Scripture interpret Scripture -- which basically means that we don't assign a meant to a verse or passage that is contrary to clear teaching elsewhere in Scripture. And God leads us, if we simply humble ourselves, and pray -- coming in abject poverty of spirit and humility. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled!" It's the promise of our Lord, never broken.

And your saying is so right: "He cared so much. Most of mankind returns that favor with scorn and self-interpretations."

So we do, so we do. It can be confusing to the follower of Jesus, to hear so many self-proclaimed prophets and sects claiming this or that. Sometimes I take a journey on YouTube through all the self-proclaimed prophets -- it breaks my heart. Each one is deceiving everyone in his circle.

We are told to expect this - That in the latter days, deceivers and false prophets will abound more and more.

But we who are guarded by the Word and Spirit of God will endure. And not in our own knowledge or education! But simply in the Grace that saves us and leads us along kindly, with undeserved favor every day... Praise God!

Anyway, be encouraged in Abba! And know that I am more than happy to help a fellow traveler on the way -- and you encourage me in turn, in your words and faith. All of us are undeserving children, chosen by our Lord Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. So, so thankful!

Loy Mershimer said...

Oops! In the third paragraph it should read, "And we will let Scripture interpret Scripture -- which basically means that we don't assign a MEANING to a verse or passage that is contrary to clear teaching elsewhere in Scripture."

My mental words outran my typed words, lol.


Anonymous said...

more about asking in His Name:

Some people think that Jesus was talking about pronouncing his name in a certain way. They believe we have to get his name right — like a secret password — before the request will get through the heavenly filters. But when ancient peoples talked about someone’s "name," they were not worried about the right pronunciation — they were referring to a person’s status or importance.

We can see that in the book of Hebrews. It begins by telling us that Jesus has inherited a better name than the angels have. The name in that context seems to be "Son," but the precise word isn’t really important — the point being made is that Jesus is superior to the angels. He has a higher status, a greater glory.

When we talk about the superior name of Jesus, we are really talking about his superior importance. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are not dealing with a special word — we are dealing with a special person. When we pray in his name, we are praying according to the way that he is — according to his nature. Our praise and requests should be something that fits his character.

Let’s use another analogy. Suppose that a police officer says, "Stop in the name of the law" — it means that the officer has the force of law behind the command. But suppose that same officer asks for a bribe: "Give me $20,000 cash in the name of the law." Using the words "in the name of the law" does not automatically give the officer legal support, does it? When the officer says "in the name of the law," he is supposed to be acting within the rules of the law.

In the same way, when we use Jesus’ name, we are not obligating him to support our own whims and desires. Rather, we are saying that we are already in accord with what he wants. We are saying something that he has authorized us to say.

Rather than forcing him to conform to our wishes, "in his name" means exactly the opposite: We are conforming to his wishes, we are acting within his will. When we speak on his behalf, we need to make sure that we are saying something that he would agree with.

When we say "in Jesus’ name," we are conforming to the words of the Lord’s prayer: Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let it be done in my life. If my request is not according to your will, then feel free to change it to what it needs to be. "In Jesus’ name" is our affirmation that, as best we know, our request is within his will.

Loy Mershimer said...

Prayer is such a mystery. And such a privilege at the same time!

And you are right: The Name of Jesus is not a magical talisman. It's about praying in His will and person. There is such power and sanctity in His name, though -- the only Name at which darkness trembles.

People should not use His name superficially or glibly. So many people do though. They use it as a swear word, or vainly, such as "Thank ya, Sweet J_ _ _." Whenever they are not really thanking Him, but rather being supposedly glib and funny. Or, saying stuff like, "He thinks he's J_ _ _!"

Anytime we use His name, we should mean it. And respect it. He is our dearest Friend, whether we know it or not!

I like the last paragraph especially, btw:

"When we say "in Jesus’ name," we are conforming to the words of the Lord’s prayer: Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let it be done in my life. If my request is not according to your will, then feel free to change it to what it needs to be. "In Jesus’ name" is our affirmation that, as best we know, our request is within his will."

All in the authority of the King!

As He came not to do His own will, but rather the will of the Father, so we live not for our own will, but the will of the Son, and thus live out the will of the Father, in the power of the Spirit. Mystery of grace!

Blessings, tonight!

Anonymous said...

one of my favorites:

Acts 3:12-16
And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Peace Be with you brother.

Loy Mershimer said...

Jesus is Victor!

And His name redeems, heals, and restores broken humans. His name binds and casts out darkness.

His name is like healing balm, when spoken in faith -- even desperate faith. His name also offends those in love with other things.

The greatest healing, and yet the greatest offense: the Sun of Righteuous, and also a Stone that makes men stumble -- this is the Name of Jesus! The greatest Friend that anyone ever could have...


Anonymous said...

if you like music, let me share one of my favorites with you.

Loy Mershimer said...

great song! And yes, I love music -- singing and listening to good songs/artists. And that one is very faithful. I had heard it before, but hearing it again makes makes me want to buy the album on iTunes.

Thank you for sharing it.

Loy Mershimer said...

It is a sobering fact that there are certain people who will not have their prayers heard by God.

Psalm 66:18 brushes up against this truth: "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened..."

What does it mean to *cherish* or regard sin in the heart? It essentially means to give it honored place; quite simply, to call sin a personal *good* or personal right.

This kind of person calls good "evil," and evil, "good." He or she calls light "darkness," and darkness, "light" (Isaiah 5:20). Such people have "have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel."

It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, reproves and instructs a person in righteousness. Many people today say that their personal sin is okay simply because "the Spirit" told them so. They cherish their sin; they call their sin their identity. And then claim to not only be heard of God, but also to gain higher authority than the revealed Word of God.

It is a dangerous place, for they cannot cherish their sin (and claim to be right with God, claiming the blessing of the Spirit) without ascribing to the Holy Spirit that which is of darkness. And, of course, this leads to what is called the unpardonable sin.

"Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin." Mk. 3:29

Many people misunderstand blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They think it is railing against Him or cursing Him. Not so. It is simply slandering Him, continually, over time, by ascribing to Him the works of darkness, and then living on that vector. Such a person cannot be forgiven, for they have rejected the work of the Holy Spirit and defined the Spirit by their own desires. Such a person categorically will not repent. They have hardened their hearts, and grow harder with each reproof.

However, for any person willing to call their sin "sin," and confess it (saying the same thing about their sin as God says), and then allowing the office work of the Holy Spirit in revealing sin, through the Word, in their lives, leading to repentance, such persons have hope!

It is a weighty topic.

The kinds of people who do not have their prayers heard by God are in grave danger.

So we pray, and worship, for those who will not pray or worship. We confess for those who will not confess. We carry them to the place of the Presence, and pray that the roof will open, and healing will come.