Matthew 6:9-15 Part 2

Having spent almost all of our time Last Lord’s Day on the form and the character of the Lord’s Prayer, what is needed now is to understand the content.  And we need to recognize that this is not just a Theological exercise; and it’s not just an hour spent on Sunday Morning to get pumped up spiritually!

As the prayer suggests, it, itself, is life!  This is the pattern for prayer – deviation from which is perversion – and it is also the pattern for life.  We not only are evangelically interested in it, but it also is to be lived!  One of the aspects of Reformed Theology which so attracted me from the beginning is the fact that the Bible teaches the living of the whole of life in response to God!

And, this morning, we’re looking upon one of those “magnificent” portions of Scripture – recognized as so by the Church down through the ages – glorious in its form and character, as well as its content.  And, as all of Scripture does, the “special” occurrence of Revelation can be observed as having this “quality” about it which reflects the very plan for, and reason for, our being.  And the Lord’s Prayer does that.  It is very special, and it is the unambiguous pattern for life.

And the Lord Jesus Christ calls upon His Own disciples to see that with clarity!  In condemning Pharisaical and pagan theologies and methodologies, Jesus calls attention to the “seat” of their focus – which is the ego.  He makes it plain that the pagan life-pattern is concentration on self.  The self is life!

But rather than call the attention of other people to self in pious self-glorification, and rather than calling the attention of the gods to self by mindless and futile babbling, Jesus graciously gives His people a gleaming microcosm of life itself!  On the one hand is the pattern of death – self-glorification.  But, on the other, the Lord's Prayer reflects the very meaning of life – the creature giving glory to the Creator!  Man giving glory to God!

The pattern for prayer centers its attention on God in worship and praise.  Then there are submissive requests for needs-satisfaction!  God made us to give Himself glory.  And prayer is upside down – as life is upside down – if the focus of attention is the self!  In fact, if the focus of attention is self, then what is being reflected is the pattern for death.  Jesus says here that the reward for seeking self-gratification and self-esteem is just that – and nothing more.  Your reward is in full.  There’s nothing else coming from God.

But the meaning of life is the glory of God.  And the Lord’s Prayer clearly reflects that.  It is the pattern for prayer and the pattern for life.  And, as we pray this way, we are actually living life, are we not?  As the believer goes to God in prayer, is he not living life?  Doesn’t he reflect the meaning of his existence by reflecting the proper order of things?

But by seeking honor and the esteem of other people, isn’t that the opposite of life?  You can almost begin to taste the death in it!  There’s a savor of death there.  The same is true of pagan methodologies of worship – speaking in mindless babble for example – it’s a perversion of this pattern, and it has a taste of death.  It concentrates on the “me.”  On personal satisfaction.  On personal gifts.  The focus is self – and that’s death.  Savior of death.

On the other hand we are commanded by God to live in prayer continually!  We are to be in a constant state of prayer!  Pray continually, it says.  Is there any question that we are commanded here to fit in to the pattern of life?  That the focus of life is to give worship and glory to God the Creator – to live wholly content in doing that?  That’s what it means to be in a constant state of prayer.  It’s a life-state.

Well, that’s what the Lord’s Prayer is.  It is the pattern for the life that is lived in conformity to the design of God.  It is the pattern for the life which is reflecting the image of God.  It is the pattern for the life which is happy, content and fulfilled in its purpose.

And this pattern begins, as Jesus teaches us here, with “Our Father in the heavens.”  Now, we’ve already spoken at some length about the term “Father.”  And I won’t repeat all of that.  But there are three or four major points here that we ought to hold steadfastly to when we go to God in prayer.  And we won’t get much further today than just this review.

And the first thing is that He is our Father, and “Father” means Ultimate Authority.  When the Scripture says, “call no man father,” it simply means that no man has supreme and unlimited authority over another.  But God is “Father;” He is our Authority.  And when we go into the private chamber to speak to Him, we don’t go in a directive frame of mind!  We go in and call Him “Father.”  We go in as submissive children.

“Father in the heavens” distinguishes Him from our earthly fathers, who, although they have been given authority over us, don’t have, and weren’t intended to have, supreme authority over us.  “Our Father in the heavens” has authority over our earthly fathers!  But there is none above Him.     

The fact that He is “our Father in the heavens” means that He has Supreme Authority over the heavens!  The heavens themselves do His bidding, “and who can stay His hand?”  A man can’t add a cubit to his height, and no one can exceed God’s prescriptive boundaries!  There is no creature in all-that-exists that doesn’t do according to His will!

And in that sense, He is “Father” of all – the One with Supreme Authority over all.  He exists outside the limits of all He made, and He is Ruler and Judge of it all.

But the second point is, that Jesus commands us to pray “Our Father in the heavens,” which indicates that God is “Father” to some, in ways that He isn’t Father to all!  This is, in other words, the exclusivity that was mentioned last Lord’s Day.

And the Scriptures are very clear that when man rebelled against God and acknowledged no Supreme Authority, other than himself, he lost sonship.   And he became sons of the devil.  In the likeness of Satan – the author of rebellion.

But God promised some of these that He would be their “Father” and they would be His sons!  Israel was God’s “son” in anticipation of, and foreshadowing of, the coming of Jesus.  And now, the Church is in Him, the whole Church, the reality which was prefigured in the nation of Israel!  The Church is made up of adopted sons; and the union of His adopted sons comprises the Body of His Only Begotten Son!

So the term “our Father in the heavens” is one which is exclusive to us “prodigals,” who once lived in the house of the devil, but who were ransomed by blood and placed in the house of “our Father in the heavens!”  We are adopted sons and joint heirs with God’s Only-begotten Son, and recipients of all the benefits and finery of our Father’s household.  And no one can call Him Father except those who have been bought and paid for, those for whom the fatted calf has been slaughtered, and upon whose bodies the robes of the Father’s household have been draped.

Which brings me to the third point, which is the relationship between the Father and His adopted children.  I quoted Jesus last Lord’s Day when He said, “What Father, when asked by his son for a fish, would give him a snake?”  Fathers love their sons and want the best for them.  And the love that an earthly father has for his son or offspring is only a glimpse – partial glimpse at best – at the heavenly reality; God’s love for His Son. 

But, you see, let’s take that one step further!  We adopted sons are the only creatures of God for whom blood has been shed!  Not even for the angels was blood shed!  And the blood that was shed for us was the blood of His Only-begotten Son!  The blood of the Only begotten was spilled for the ones who had squandered the inheritance!  What love is that!  It will be difficult for us to ever attain to an understanding of it!  But it’s with reference to that love that we say – with the first words out of our mouths – “Our Father in the heavens....”  Our adoptive Father loved us enough to shed the blood of His Only-begotten for us.  “Our Father”

The fourth point here is that Jesus says for us to pray “our Father” rather than “my Father.”  What that means is that He is the Covenanting Lord over the entire promised body of His Son – all of His people are His adopted children.

And it means that we are in holy union in Christ Jesus.  If we are His adopted children and a part of His household, then we are brothers!  And all other brotherhoods and fellowships and unions are without value in comparison.  And, in fact, may well be contrary to the victory promised in Christ, and antithetical to the clear commands of God!

Our brotherhood in Him is such a clear and strong issue in Scripture!  And we ought to beware joining other groups because of it!  We ought to look carefully at the language in their documents, their laws, the relationships between members, and the goals and pursuits of the group.  And I think we must have, at least, this minimum standard – that any organization of which we might become a member must have no charter or vows which are, in any way, out of accord with Christ and His Church! 

We as Christ’s brothers are missing so much because of the present-day understanding of the Church, which accounts for the attractiveness of other’s organizations and para-church groups.   Hardly a day goes by when I’m not looking for a communing brother to talk to!  And, because of this independent, self-centered view of Christianity being taught now, I’m usually disappointed with any contact that’s made!  It’s because people don’t know what “our Father” means!  They don’t have any concept of what being adopted sons, and joint heirs, and brothers in Christ means!  It seems as if the brand of Christianity that’s being taught is simply the individual believer – one on one with Christ!  Nothing’s ever said about the covenant body – the Church, which is one in Christ! 

And what’s come out of that is this:  a very surface and superficial relationship between believers.  There’s no family concept with common goals, and like minds! 

Let me give you a good, clear example of that.  I had a client just this past Wednesday who made an offer to lease some property through me.  And in the process of doing the proper documents something was mentioned in the course of the conversation which made me think that this man claimed to be a believer.

So, alerted to that, I jumped right in and asked him.  And he said he was.  And the relationship changed right there – as it should.  It was no longer just a businessman working through a realtor to get a deal done!

But, as usual, I wasn’t even close to being satisfied with how it changed!  This man’s concept, because of his teaching, of the individual believer, one on one with Christ, he had no idea of what our relationship was supposed to be!  Our relationship did change, and for that I was grateful, but this man’s concept of the new relationship was so shallow I didn’t know what do with it!  He wanted to fellowship for a minute, talk about the Lord for a minute, tell me he trusted me more now that he knew I was a Christian – and that was it!

Fellowship was it!  That’s all there was!

But fellowship isn’t the same as brotherhood!  There’s so much more to brotherhood in Christ than just fellowship – although I think fellowship is a truly excellent benefit.  Let me give you just one quick example of what I mean! – People all over this country are meeting together and doing things together and attending other church functions together – all seemingly good fellowship.  But watch out if one steps on his brother’s toes one time!  The sparks fly and the splits come and the lawsuits are filed and the accusations roll in!  And the pastors are turned out!

The point is, here, that the understanding of Christian brotherhood usually extends only to fellowship!  And as soon as someone enters another’s space from the wrong angle, the fellowship stops!  That’s not Christian brotherhood!

The brotherhood of adopted children, living in the body of Christ, ought to be a called-out group of new creations – made one together in the body of Christ (which is signified by receiving the body and blood of Christ together at the Lord’s Table), having one Spirit and one Lord, having one goal in mind, being like-minded in the truth, getting rid of self and putting the others first, using gifts for the edification of the whole, and, being so sure of the unity of the whole, that private sensitivities, irritations, and egos are dropped out of the way because they interfere with the function and unity of the body!  That’s what our Father means! 

But under this teaching of individualism and personal esteem, all there is, is a superficial level of recognition when two people finally admit that they are Christians!  Now, I was happy that, at least, that occurred with this gentleman over in Kilgore last Wednesday, but I tell you now that that’s as for as it’ll ever go.

Really, I get the impression most of the time that Christians would probably rather relax with unbelievers than they would with Christians!  They’d rather work and play and socialize with unbelievers than they would with professing Christians!  Same problem!  The unity of believers in the body of Christ is not understood at all, and the fellowshipping around the Church, functions at that level of misunderstanding!  Do you hear that?  The gathering around the Church and its activities - that is, the fellowship – is the new definition of Christian unity!  It serves to bolster the individual need to socialize and belong.  And because of that, it has become Christian unity!

And you’d better know, that when Christian unity is defined as fellowshipping and socializing, look out.  Because you’re only one step away from exploding that concept of unity!  One cross word, one irritation, one stray emphasis, one bruised ego, one criticism of a child, one almost-anything!  And the individualized and personalized and privatized Christianity breaks off the “unity” of the body again and goes off to be with Jesus alone - where it’s just me and Him, like “that’s the way it’s supposed to be!”

But Jesus says, when you pray, put self away!  There’s no place for the private “me first” Christianity.  This isn’t bowling for Jesus.  This is the body of Christ – called out and separated in Him – for the purpose of giving glory to God the Creator and Savior of the world!  When you pray don’t pray “look at me!”  But pray, “our Father!”

This is the joint heirs of God’s blessings raising their voices and their lives together in praise and honor of His Lordship and His grace and His mercy and His love.  Joint heirs!  And adopted brothers!  All of the same nature!  Having the same Lord, the same Spirit, the same body, having the same goals, the same like-mindedness, the same future victory!

And all sharing the same struggles and the same grace!  The unity factor is the body of Christ.  And since that is the case, then God is our Father.  It is a special relationship with Him – and it is special for us, in Him.

When a brother or sister hurts, then we all hurt; and we nurture him and salve the wounds.  When a brother is blessed; then we all delight in our Father’s goodness.  When a brother sins, we’re patient with him because we all sin; and we call him back to repentance in mercy and love.  No man is a director of another brother’s life!  We only have one law-giver!  We forgive immediately when a brother turns from his error and wants forgiveness.  We all report to the same father; and if the Father always forgives his children when they seek Him out, who are we to withhold same!?

This is the true nature of brotherhood and unity.

All of us know how much I like to celebrate.  I delight in the deliverance provided by our Father, and the freedom we have in Christ Jesus.  Deliverance from the tyranny of ego-centric men who want to rule the lives of the adopted sons of God, deliverance from the “don’t do this” and “don’t do that” crowd.  Deliverance from man-made rules and customs and politics.

That’s all worthy of gratefulness and thanksgiving to our Father.  We never want to lose sight of that and continue to delight in our freedom and life in Him.

But neither should we lose sight of the law of love for our brothers.  We are co-heirs (the right translation).  We don’t pray to each other – we all pray to our Father.