Rejoicing for Sinners Who Repent

One Sunday many years ago, our minister stopped the musicians in the middle of a song and announced that he felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that someone wanted to make things right with God. Before he could finish speaking, his youngest son, Johnny, rushed down the aisle into his father’s arm and invited Jesus into his heart as his Lord and Savior.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the congregation.  Johnny was a young adult with a wife and children, and many of us had known him since he was a child.  We had seen him struggle with faith and turn his back on God.  Even when his wife accepted Jesus as her Savior, Johnny stayed away.

But God didn’t turn his back on Johnny.  God loved him and wanted Johnny to be a part of his family.  The church members had prayed diligently and fervently, along with his parents and family, for Johnny to come back to God. This was the day we had prayed for.  The rejoicing in that sanctuary was like nothing I had ever experienced.  For nearly an hour, people throughout the sanctuary stood and raised their hands and their voices to God, praising Him for a lost sheep that had come home.

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Sadly, I have not experienced that level of congregational rejoicing over a sinner coming to repentance again.  Of course, we are happy when we see a sinner repent.  We may  applaud and shout “Hallelujah”.  But, how often do we truly rejoice?   Jesus taught the apostles about rejoicing in the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin.  It’s recorded in book of Matthew and Luke.  This version is from Luke 15:4-10.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

 

Jesus tells us that the angels in Heaven rejoice over every sinner who repents.  Should we not also rejoice?  Coming to Jesus and accepting His free gift of forgiveness is the greatest decision a person can ever make, and all Christians should rejoice with him or her upon making this decision. We should celebrate exuberantly and weep with joy.

Last night, Sean Hannity interviewed Roger Stone on his evening television show.  By all accounts, Roger Stone is a person who has made many mistakes and many enemies.  But, in that interview, he testified that he has come to repentance and thanked Sean Hannity for convincing him to confess his sins and be reborn.

But more than anything else, I am grateful for God because as you told me, if I would — if I would rededicate my life to Christ, I would be reborn.

I can remember it like it was yesterday and your advice was as solid as can be. You said, God will never desert you. He will never abandon you. He will protect you if you — if you confess your sins and you walk in his way. And I’ve done my very best to do that.

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Today I am rejoicing that another lost sheep has been welcomed back into the fold.  Roger Stone has confessed his sins and trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  This should fill us with joy and hope. And it should remind us to reaffirm our commitment to pray for our unsaved loved ones, our unsaved neighbors and friends, and our unsaved leaders.  Every person needs God. Every person needs forgiveness.  Every person needs to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Let’s pray for everyone we know to respond to Jesus’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  And when they come to Jesus, let’s rejoice as though the greatest thing has just occurred.  Because it has.

 

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Praying for Those in Authority

“The people who really rule the world are the those who know how to pray.”                               Derek Prince

In the third chapter of his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince provided clear guidance on why Christians must pray regularly and effectively for the leaders of our nation.  I will share here a summary of his work, and I encourage all who read this to buy this book and to begin to pray fervently for our nation and our leaders–all of them, not just those with whom you agree, or those with whom you disagree.

“Therefore I exhort first all all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”            1 Timothy 2:1 -4

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1) The primary activity of believers is Prayer.    In Isaiah 56:7, God tells his people, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  Our first responsibility is to pray for all people and especially our government.

2) It is in our best interest to pray for our government.  As Christian pray for our government, our leaders will govern in ways that lead to the peace and safety of all people.

3) Our nation was founded on the principle that people should be allowed to leave quiet and peaceful lives that provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  This happens when the government provides a framework for law, order, and administration.

4) The outcome of good government is that it facilitates the preaching of the gospel.  And the end result is that people will be saved and come to know the truth of God’s love and mercy.

If we believe that our government has failed us, then we have to come to the realization that the government has failed for one of two reasons:

1) We have not prayed for our government as we ought to have.

2) We have prayed but without knowing the will of God.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 tells us that it is God’s will that we have good government.  We need to be praying earnestly and daily for our government. 

Prince writes, “We criticize. We complain. But we fail to pray.  This is why we see worldwide moral and ethical decline, both in leadership and in national culture.  We have not understood the limitless possibilities of praying according to God’s will as revealed in His Word.”

Imagine the power that can be released if all of God’s people in America prayed daily for our government leaders.  Let’s all commit to that goal.  I think that we will be amazed at what God will do.

Give Thanks for All Who Are in Authority

In 1 Timothy 2: 1- 4, Paul wrote, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

As Christian we often use this passage to encourage one another to pray for our President and elected officials. And if ever there was a time that our President and elected officials need our prayers, it is now. Supplications and intercessions go pretty much hand-in-hand with prayers. I am quite happy, and usually diligent, to pray, intercede, and supplicate for our leaders.

Today, however, as I read this passage, the fourth command jumped out at me–‘giving of thanks.’ Now, that is a harder pill to swallow. I give thanks regularly for our President and other elected leaders with whom I agree and support. However, I can’t say that I give thanks for those who oppose the President and the important changes he is trying to implement to keep our country safe and prosperous.

When it comes to praying for those politicians that I believe are moving our nation away from God, I do pray for their salvation. I ask God to remove the blinders from their eyes so that they will see the truth and repent. I pray for revival for our nation, and particularly among those in position of authority and influence. But, I don’t give thanks for those with whom I disagree.

Paul tells us in this passage that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for ALL men, for kings and ALL who are in authority.” And the reason for these prayers, supplications, intercessions, and thanks is that we may live in peace in godliness and that people will be saved and come to know the truth.

So, starting today, I will give thanks for all men and women in positions of authority, whether I agree with their politics or not. And, I believe that by giving thanks, and interceding on behalf of all our politicians, that we will enable God to move in the hearts and minds of our politicians to work together so that we as Americans can live in peace in godliness and reverence.

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Will you join me in supplicating, praying, interceding, and giving thanks for all in authority?


Praying for the Unsaved

 

What is your motivation when you pray for the lost to be saved?  Generally I am motivated by the desire that the person I am praying for will have the best possible life on earth and a future in Heaven.  I don’t want anyone to go to hell, and I am certain the world would be a much better place if more of its inhabitants had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I read a devotional this morning by Charles Finney (Principles of Prayer, Day 6) that challenges that motivation as selfish and the wrong reason to pray for the unsaved.   Finney states that we tend to think about how our lives would be improved by the salvation of others, when we should actually focus on the glory God receives when a sinner comes to repentance and salvation. We need to pray that people come to Christ so they will stop dishonoring God through sin and so that God will be glorified by the conversion.

Perhaps you have known someone whose life was radically changed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.  Those close to such a person can’t help but notice the difference that salvation has made, and many of the person’s acquaintances are drawn to Christ through such a conversion.  God is glorified through all conversions, and our desire should be that God receives the honor and glory due Him. Jesus told us the Heaven rejoices over every person who comes to Him.  “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10) 

Christians need to pray frequently and fervently for the lost to be saved.  If we pray with the expectation that God will be honored as sinners turn away from sinful lifestyles and that God will receive glory as the world notices the changes, I believe we will see a great move of God in our nation.  We need to pray for the salvation of not only our loved ones, but also for the salvation of persons of influence.

Can you imagine the impact on our society if many of our political leaders, celebrities, and other public figures came to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and began to live according to God’s ordinance?

 

Symphony of Prayer

“Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”   Matthew 18:19-20

When I read this Scripture, I always envision a group of people joining together in prayer. For example, in our church, we often surround a person who has requested prayer and physically reach out and touch them while praying for them.   At other times, we hold hands and pray.  Of course, we can agree in prayer over the phone or even through emails.  Yet, I tend to think of Christians praying together in one place.

Tonight I was introduced to another way of thinking about this verse.   In his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior,  Derek Prince offers a picture of Christians harmonizing in prayers, much as a symphony harmonizes.  Prince calls this harmonizing “the prayer symphony” and uses it to build a foundation for effective prayer.

According to Prince, the word translated as ‘agree’ comes the Greek word sumphoneo, or symphony.  He also states that ‘gathered together’ literally means ‘have been led together.’  As Christians, we are led by the Holy Spirit.  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) Therefore, Prince writes, this verse is telling us “that any time two or three have been led together by the Holy Spirit into a meeting place, which is the name of Jesus, then they can count on His presence.  Additionally, if these ones shall symphonize–come together in perfect harmony–concerning anything that they shall ask, then it will be done for them.”

If we think of agreeing and coming together as being led by the Holy Spirit to pray in harmony , we can come together in the spirit of prayer wherever we are and pray as we are all lead by the same Holy Spirit.  Prince likens Christians being led in prayer by the Holy Spirit as a conductor leading an orchestra of musicians through a musical score.  The conductor is the Holy Spirit, the musicians are the Christians being brought together, and the score is the Word of God.  As the read the score, His will is revealed to us so that we know how He would have us pray.

Prince continues, “With these components in place, the Holy Spirit lifts the baton of His authority and unites the playing of many different instruments.”  He then encourages each of us to consider prayer as “taking your place in the orchestra and playing your instrument.  You are not confined to one instrument, of course, although you probably have an affinity for a particular one.  These instruments are praise, thanksgiving, worship, petition, intercession, supplication, command, commitment, dedication, persistence, blessing, and cursing.”

I am excited to continue to read this book and discover more about prayer and the secrets of becoming a true prayer warrior.  As I come to the Lord in prayer, I will be encouraged to think of millions of Christians around the world joining in the Symphony of Prayer and playing their particular instruments as we agree together according to His Word.