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Gospel-Centered Prayer

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Introduction

Greeting
What are you praying for?
There is no truer indicator of a Christian’s level of spiritual maturity that his or her prayer life
A part of that is what you pray for other people
A few weeks ago Tedd challenged us to pray for a specific unsaved person that they would come to know Christ
At the end of this sermon tonight I’m going to issue another challenge - to pray for the spiritual maturity of someone in this room
Often when we pray for one another it is to cover a specific need - but how often do we stop to pray for the general spiritual life of our family?

How does love abound?

It is my prayer
Paul makes three statements that are completely countercultural:
That your love may abound more and more
Present tense - This means that it is an ongoing action that it is not something that has an end
This is a love that is unconditional - agape love.
There is no object for this love - this is love for God, for others, for enemies
Jesus taught this love in the story of the Good Samaritan -
A scholar asks Christ whom he should love
Christ tells a story that turns his concept of neighbor on its head
Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages - says that we can love once our love tank has been filled by another - generally by the object of our love
1 John 4:19 NASB95PARA
We love, because He first loved us.
Christ's love obliterates our love tank.
NASB95But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NASB95PARA
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
We are able to love with abandon because the source of our love loves us with abandon.
Not reckless - but measured and determined
NASB95“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NASB95PARA
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
God did not withhold from us His most precious possession - we can freely love others with our possessions, our time, our very lives
Same root word as the word for abundant life in
John 10:10 NASB95PARA
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
NASB95“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
The abundant life Jesus came to bring has nothing to do with possessions, or wealth or healthIt has to do with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and the like.
with knowledge and all discernment
If Paul would have just stopped at love abounding more and more then we would be able to fit with culture
Culture has turned love into acceptance
Air BNB commercial during the Super Bowl
We believe no matter who you are
where you're from, who you love
or who you worship, we all belong
the world is more beautiful the more you accept
The culture at the time of the writing of this letter and the culture now would tell us that "love is blind"
that love is purest when it is uninformed
But Paul says something completely different - He says that our love abounds through knowledge and discernment
This is not head knowledge - random knowledge - but purposeful knowledge about the source of our love
Proverbs 1:7 NASB95PARA
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
NASB95The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The more we know about God the more we love not only Him but because of what He did for us, we love those around usThere are two ways that we can know about GodThe first is through natural revelation which is available to all men
Romans 1:19–20 NASB95PARA
because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
NASB95because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
The second is through special revelation - the Bible
There is a serious epidemic of Biblical illiteracy gripping the church
Most church attendees don't even carry a Bible45% of church attenders say they read the Bible more than once a week
40% say they read it once or twice a month
1 in 5 say they never read it at all
There is a huge movement to undermine the value of knowledge in the church today
Real knowledge produces holiness through sincere devotion and obedience to the infallible Scriptures.
Paul calls us to know God and by this knowledge our love will increase
Godly love is produced only by the working of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who belong to Him.
The passion of Paul’s life was to know Christ
Philippians 3:8 NASB95PARA
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,
Philippians 3:
Illustration - marriage
It is hard for our love to increase if we don't know the source
Discernment
Next to knowledge, discernment is the second greatest sin in the world today
11th Commandment
NASB95“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
Matthew 7:1 NASB95PARA
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
You can't tell anyone they are wrong or that their reality is something other than what they believe it to be
Craig T. Nelson/Bruce Jenner Golf tees "You are so lost"
What are we to do - how does discernment work in a world that is so anti-discernment?
Jesus tells us that you will recognize them by their fruit - that you have to make a judgement
Two things about discernment
NASB95“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:3–6 NASB95PARA
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
Training Treasury workers to spot counterfit - they stare at genuine money until it becomes second nature
The more we know of the truth the more we are fulfilling the prayer of Jesus
John 17:17 NASB95PARA
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
As we are sanctified - as we become more like Jesus - we are able to make wise assessments of the world and to look at it through the filter of the Gospel and to grow the fruit of righteousness in our lives

Fruit of Righteousness

Matthew 7:17–20 NASB95PARA
So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.
The fruit of righteousness in the New Testament is the good works that are produced by God’s righteousness in the believer’s life
The more we are transformed by the Spirit into becoming more Christlike, the more we can accomplish the good works that God has established for His followers
Ephesians 2:10 NASB95PARA
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
These good works come through the power of Christ working in and through us - it cannot be humanly generated.
There is a tension here though - between our efforts and Christ’s action
We are not automatons - simply puppets or robots that move only at the behest of our controller
As we grow in our knowledge of and love for Christ, we are able to be more discerning of the works that He would approve of and we are more capable of accomplishing those works
Just as a child grows in their knowledge of the right things to do and does them - we grow in our knowledge and desire to do the things which please and glorify God showing Him our gratitude for what He has done on our behalf
As we grow more like Him we are more capable of approving the things that are excellent according to His standards

Approve things that are excellent

Approve means much more than simple acknowledgment or agreement that something is right or true.
It asks not what is right - but what is better, what is best?
Speaks of approval on two levels
This form of approval is spoken of in Proverbs
Early church fathers understood the distinguishing of v 10 to mean the ability to distinguish between what was orthodoxy and what was heresy, what was true and what was false teaching
1 Peter 1:7 NASB95PARA
so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
NASB95so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
The process of testing gold by fire to prove it's genuineness
Gold bars are melted down in extreme heat and then borax is added which bonds with the impurities in the gold allowing them to be skimmed off until the gold is 99.9% pure
Approving things that are excellent involves examining our lives and removing those things which are less than pure or that do not support our faith
Personal level
What is best in my life?
speaks to what you are placing as the highest priority in your life
What am I watching on tv? Listening to? Where am I going on the internet?
What do my decisions say about who I worship?
Should I attend a gay wedding?
What do I say to my friend/child who is debating an abortion?
Corporate level
As a church - who do we partner with?
What is the priority - is it the Gospel or feeding people?
Also important to remember to major in the majors and minor in the minors - some battles must be fought and others can be disagreed upon

Sincere and blameless until the day of Christ

Pure and Blameless for the Day of Christ
Paul's second reference to the Day of Christ
Philippians 1:6 NASB95PARA
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
NASB95For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
The work in verse 6 is the completion of the Gospel at the day of Christ
Here Paul is discussing how Christ will present us on the last day
Pure underscores the importance of approving what is excellent
Philippians 4:8 NASB95PARA
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
We are made pure by the washing of the blood of the lamb
NASB95Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
This week in particular brings into stark relief what it cost for us to be pronounced blameless before the throne of God
We are made pure by the washing of the blood of the lamb
2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB95PARA
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
On our own we stood condemned as enemies of God - seeking in every way to get as far away from Him as possible
But God - the two most beautiful words in all of human history.
when we were dead in our sins, incapable of reaching out to Him, He made a way for us to be saved by coming in the form of a slave as an actual human man but still God and died on the cross for us - taking all of God’s wrath on our behalf so that we could be viewed through His perfect righteousness which He freely imputes or gives to us.
And He did all of this to the Glory and praise of God

To the Glory of God

Paul closes out this passage by summing up what our whole motivation should be
Our love, knowledge and discernment grow, we approve what is excellent and we are filled with the fruit of righteousness all to the glory of God
Studying through this book a theme emerges - that
Through the Gospel we have joy which drives our humility and enables us to have unity one with another.
And this unity is for the glory of God
In His high priestly prayer in Christ demonstrates the motivation that all of us should have as we walk through life
John 17:4 NASB95PARA
I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
John 17:
Paul reiterates this throughout his epistles
Colossians 3:17 NASB95PARA
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB95PARA
Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Conclusion

We have looked at the prayer of Paul for the Philippian church - that he prayed for their growth and sanctification - now the question is put to us, do we pray this way? Do we pray for the maturation of our fellow believers faith or do we just pray for them when we know a specific request that needs filled?
Who could you be praying for from this body?
Who could you be praying for? Insert Name.
Give the Gospel - It is really only through the power of the Gospel that this abundant love, knowledge and discernment is possible. Until we are set free by the Gospel our love will always be tainted by the selfish motive of what we can get out of our efforts. Until we are set free by the Gospel the only knowledge we can have of God is of a righteous judge who will condemn us for our sins. But the Gospel changes all of that - that Jesus came and died on the cross for us so that we can experience true, pure love and then be free to love in that way. To change our condition before God from one condemned to one accepted and cherished as a son or daughter. Maybe tonight you need to hear that and more importantly to submit to it. If so then in your heart pray something like this....
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