And we're going to be in the Book of Luke again today. We've been going through this series where we have been looking at, what does it look like to follow Jesus, even if it doesn't always make sense. And we've been walking along with the disciples. Jesus's original disciples - those who followed him while he was still on this Earth- We've been walking along with the disciples and we've seen, hey, these guys struggled with things just like we struggle with things. These guys were confused about what it meant to follow Jesus just like we're sometimes confused about what it means to follow Jesus. And so this morning we want to look in particular at this idea of devotion. This idea of devotion. The disciples, the early disciples, while they were confused and they did struggle to follow Jesus, you have to admit these guys were pretty devoted to Jesus. These are the guys that Jesus shows up in the middle of their work day and says, hey, leave your net and follow me, and they did - they literally walked away from their livelihoods for Jesus. They were devoted to Jesus, but I want us to define devoted, right, because you and I have jobs; you and I work, and we're looking at things like, does that mean if I want to be devoted to Jesus I have to walk away from my work? Not exactly. Although maybe I don't want to write that off as impossible. But at the same time, not necessarily to be devoted. We need to define this term, and so definition for devoted is to give all or a large part of one's time or resources to a person, activity, or cause. To give all or a large part of one's time or resources to a person and activity or a cause.
We want to be devoted to Jesus. What we find is that can't just be lip service. If we're going to be devoted to Jesus according to the dictionary, then we need to be devoting large parts of our time and our resources to him to His kingdom. What does that look like for us to be devoted in that way? That's what we're going to consider. Today, we're going to consider what does devotion look like, but at the same time as we're considering devotion in that larger sense, I want to consider it in a more narrow sense as well because for the last probably five, six months, we've been talking as a church about wanting to be people devoted to what? Love God, love others, make disciples. And we talked specifically; be devoted to prayer. What does it look like for us to be people devoted to prayer? The larger picture of Devotion to Christ is to say, He gets all of my time and my resources, they're all submitted to Him. But then more particularly we want to be devoted to prayer. It's interesting. When you look at the New Testament, we're told many times to be devoted, be devoted to one another and that's why I'm so glad we started these small groups. And if you're not a part of a small group, I would encourage you to yes, you missed one week, but you can still jump in late. That would be a very red Hills thing to do actually. And so if you're not a part of a small group if you want to join one, shoot me a text, shoot me an email, and I can help get you plugged in to a small group. But we started those this week because in large part we do; we want to be devoted to one another. We want to connect with one another outside of this time, right? Sunday mornings are great. I love, I love Sunday morning, I love getting together with you guys. But that's - and I'm not very good at math - but that's like, a really small percentage of my week. I'd love to be able to connect with you guys outside of just these few hours on Sunday morning. So we started small groups. We want to be devoted to one another right? We're supposed to be devoted to the word of God, right? And so we have Sunday School classes and we have this time in our service where we open the Bible together and we look at it because we want to be devoted to the word of God. As a church, we made a commitment If you're a guest of ours just so you know, what kind of crazy people you're here with this morning, we made a commitment to the church saying we're going to base everything we do on the word of God. No matter what that requires of us. No matter what we have to do in response to the word. We're going to base everything on that. Why? Because we want to be devoted to the word of God. But the number one thing that we're told to be devoted to in the New Testament is prayer. We're told be devoted to prayer. They devoted themselves - Acts 2, the early church - they devoted themselves to prayer. In Romans; devote yourselves to prayer. In Colossians; devote yourselves to prayer. You get the idea. This is an important part of the life of the church. Devote yourselves to prayer. Why? Why was that so important to Paul and to Peter and to James and to John - these early leaders in the church. Why was it so important to the three thousand gathered in Jerusalem? Why was prayer so crucial? Because the reason that they were called Christians was they were following Jesus, and Jesus had taught them, My People Are People of prayer. Jesus had said, this is what marks my people, we are marked by prayer and in Luke chapter 18, that's what we see. Jesus tells this story, and the setting of this is really interesting, like, we're going through the Book of Luke, but we haven't gone verse by verse and so just want to set some context here in Luke 17. In Luke 17, Jesus is talking about what's the end times look like; he talks about persecution and he talks about his second coming and all of these things that in general fill people with a little bit of fear and trepidation. Like, the end times is a scary thing. Have you read the book of Revelation? Terrifying, and yet super encouraging at the same time. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should go read it and see what I mean. But the end times can be somewhat of a source of fear for God's people and confusion right there. If you've got this many people in a room, I guarantee you we've got at least 10 different opinions on the end times We don't know what's going on. We don't know when Jesus coming back. We don't know how He's coming back. We don't know all the details that we want to have worked out, you and I might disagree with one another. So immediately after talking about that with his disciples, talking about the end of time, talking about the second coming. Jesus says here's what you guys need and He tells them a parable that we see in Luke 18 verses 1 through 8. I'd like you to read it with me. And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said in a certain city, there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man, and it was a widow in that City who kept coming to him and saying, give me Justice against my adversary. For a while he refused, but after a while, he said to himself, though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this Widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming, and the Lord said, hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give Justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you he will give Justice to them speedily, nevertheless, when the son of man comes will he find faith on Earth?
Jesus is in 17 telling his disciples, Hey, here's the things about the end times and it's really weird how that passage ends. He talks about, they're like, where is this going to happen? And he says, Hey wherever the corpse is, there the vultures gather. There's some more frightening image for you. But he says don't lose heart just because I'm talking about dead things and vultures. Pray. Pray. So here's what I want us to understand about this parable. God is not saying that he is an unrighteous judge. The point of this passage is not that if we just knock on God's door hard enough long enough eventually he'll give in and give us what we want. That's not the point of this passage. God is not like the unrighteous judge. The unrighteous judge gets nothing out of giving this Widow Justice. And yet God dispenses Justice because that's who He is. He is just. He is the righteous God. So he's not like the unrighteous judge. He's not somebody that we have to cajole into doing what we want. Like, we just kind of beat God down by praying a lot and we get what we want. That's not the point here. The point is how much more, if an unrighteous judge who's waiting for a bribe or a political favor in order to rule on somebody's behalf - if he's willing to listen to this persistent Widow, how much more will God who is Justice personified, who is righteousness in Himself? How much more will He give Justice when His people ask for justice? The point is not bother God until He gives you what you want, but have confidence that when you pray God will accomplish Justice. God will do what is right and he says that is what the thing is; God Is Not unrighteous judge. God will so much more do this than this unrighteous judge was, so if it's not a point to just bother God until we get what we want, what's Jesus trying to say here?
Here's a really cool tip about the Bible. Usually you can figure out what it means by looking at the text. Look at verse 1 with me again. And he told them the parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Sometimes the Bible can be a little confusing. In this case, the Bible's not confusing at all. It tells us exactly, here is what you're supposed to take away from this passage. Don't take away from this passage keep praying until God gives in and gives you what you want. Now, it's keep praying don't lose heart because God is going to bring about Justice God is going to do what is right. God is going to ultimately settle everything for his glory and for his purpose and for the good of his people. Romans 8:28 many of you know it in miniature some of you have signs in your house Romans. 8:28 says what? For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and who are called according to his purpose. Jesus point is not get what you want by pestering God. Jesus point is what is in your life will bring about Justice. God will surely give it, continue to pray, do not lose heart regardless of what you see around you, the end is righteous. It is Justice. It is goodness. Keep on praying don't lose heart. That's the point of this passage. If you guys came in here expecting me to give you some brilliant Insight that you would not have gotten from the word, you're out of luck. I don't have it to give. But I do have this encouragement; Christ follower,
Jesus says keep praying. Don't lose heart. Like that Widow Who got Justice even from an unrighteous judge. How much more will we receive Justice from the righteous one himself, we will assuredly do so, so we ought always to pray. I want to look at that phrase; ought always to pray. We ought always to pray. What does that mean?
We ought always to pray.
What does that mean?
We ought always to pray. What's that mean? Pray
This is not rocket science people. We are called to pray. Jesus says his followers are people of prayer. Is it any surprise that when Jesus defines discipleship as doing what he commanded? Is it any surprise that the first followers - there as a gathering to the first church in Acts - is it any surprise that they are marked as those who are devoted to prayer. Why were they devoted to prayer? Because Jesus said they got to pray. When Paul is writing to encourage the Colossians. Why does he encourage them to pray? Because Jesus said they ought always to pray.
Why don't we pray?
Why is this hard for us?
We ought always to pray because our Lord says pray. And I hear and I think and I often times, sometimes, give into this, where I don't pray. Why? If it was so blindingly obvious to the early church that they devoted themselves to this praying? If it was so important for Jesus to spend so much time talking about it. Why don't I pray?
I think here's the problem. I think too often we're not in the position.
To feel like we need to pray. I would submit to you that the most dangerous place for a Christ follower to be is in a place where they don't think they need to pray. One of the most dangerous things that can happen in your life is for you to be comfortable, for you to have nothing pressing on your mind, for you to have nothing that is outside of your capability to do. Because it's then that you say I don't need to pray.
That's dangerous the early church pray because Jesus said so and because well, they didn't have any other option. They were literally the dregs of society. They were that the weakest of the weak, the lowest of the low. The only way they were going to do what Jesus told them to do, which was to preach the gospel to all of creation, the only way that was going to happen was if they prayed and so they prayed. And and the only way that they were going to bear up under the persecution as they were being jailed and as Steven's being martyred and as James is being thrown off the temple and as the apostles like we talked about a couple weeks ago were being killed for their faith. The only way the church was going to continue under that persecution was if they prayed. My fear for those of us sitting here, is we feel like we don't need to pray - there's nobody persecuting us. There's nothing we're doing that our money and our effort can't do for us Church, get that out of your head. First, understand this; you are being persecuted.
Because you're not alone. Remember when I said we took the Lord's supper and we do that to demonstrate our unity in Christ. That's not just those of us in these walls. Church, the church is much bigger than those of us sitting here. The church extends through all time and in the all places. Right now, there are believers, there are brothers and sisters, part of the body of Christ with you, family with you.
We spend everyday in fear. That they're going to lose their life or lose their freedom or lose their business or lose their family because they confessed Christ is King.
Somebody set this on my on my desk last week.
And it ruined my week.
This is the world watch list 2019 published by open doors Ministry open doors is a group that tracks persecution against Christians around the world. I want you to hear this. This is these are the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Number 50 the least of the worst. Is Azerbaijan 321,000 Christians? On paper Azerbaijan is secular and religion is tolerated. However, churches are subject to surveillance by the government. The indigenous Christians with a muslin background who face the most severe persecution at the hands of State family friends and community.
These are people whose families are saying you're a Christian get out. Employers saying you're a Christian you're fired. That's the easiest place among these 50s, 50 to be a Christian. You go through here and you read things like in case you wondering North Korea is number one.
North Korea, the primary driver of persecution North Korea is the state for three generations everything in the country has been focused on idolizing the Kim Family Christians are seen as hostile to be eradicated. There was hope that new diplomatic efforts in 2018 including the Winter Olympics would mean lessening of pressure and violence against Christians, but so far that has not been the case. Kim Jeong Hoon has maintained tight control over the populace and descent or worshiping anything else is not tolerated. That's the last in the first, but listen to these statistics. 245 million Christians are living under high persecution today. While we sit here and say there's no need for us to pray. 245 million Christians your brothers and sisters, your family. Parents, imagine if your kids were in jail. Would you be praying for your kids? Imagine if your brother or your sister was in jail, would you be praying for them? And they are in jail and they are being killed. One in nine Christians experiences high levels of persecutions. 11 Christians every day on average are killed for their faith.
What do you mean you don't have any need to pray? What do you mean? You're not being persecuted? You have more in common with the believer living under persecution in North Korea than you do with your unsaved neighbor here. You have more of a bond with that believer in Azerbaijan whose family has just kicked them into the street then you do with your unbelieving coworker who has the exact same job title is you.
We ought always to pray and if we're not, we've lost sight of the fact that we have a global Body of Christ that is in desperate need. We ought to be praying for them. Let's be praying for believers in places where persecution is hitting the hardest. And contrary to what you think we shouldn't be praying what you think we should be praying. Do you know what your brothers and sisters living under persecution of praying for you? That right there out of just about break your heart that they're praying for you. They are praying for you. That you would quit being apathetic American church, that you would find the first love again. It's you would use the resources. You have not to line your own pockets and feather your own nest. But to serve the cause of Christ again.
They're not praying for themselves to get out of persecution. They're praying for you to find purpose in Christ again. So pray for them to be steadfast under the persecution that they're facing. We ought always to pray whether we are personally being persecuted or not. The body of Christ is being persecuted. We ought to pray Church. Because even if we're not facing the external pressure of persecution, there is a significant internal pressure on us as Christians and that is our own sin. We ought to pray against the fact that we are still sinning. We have to pray about the fact that we have not submitted ourselves to Christ as Lord in every area of our life, but there are still those areas where we are holding tight to them and saying this is mine. I love you, but you can't have my wallet God. I love you, but you can't have my internet, God. I love you, but you can't have my job. I love you, but you can't have my family, God. I love you, but I refuse to submit to you in this place. That's what's in it. Everytime a Believer sins. It is saying God you have me but you don't have this part of me. God I'm yours but not over here. I'm going to do what I want over here. That's what sin is. We have to pray against that if we are those were marked by the king who died for us and living as if somehow our life is our own. We've missed we've missed Christ. We missed his death. We missed the body broken in the bloodshed. If we're living for ourselves, we ought to pray always we have to pray always always to pray that some of you are like, hey, dude, I got this devotion thing like I'm devoted because every morning I have personal devotion. Good onya, mate. However, what are those devotions look like you're like me. Here's my here's my typical devotion read the Bible. Give my laundry list of prayer requests to God go about my day.
Our prayers in our personal devotions don't necessarily mean that we're devoted to prayer. Praying before the meal doesn't necessarily mean we're devoted to prayer. Praying in you guys notice what we did today. We didn't pray for offering did that freak anybody out?
We have one honest person in this congregation. Yes. That was different. But we don't want prayer to be a ritual that we go through. We want prayer to be something we're engaged and we're asking God saying Lord. We need you Holy Spirit. We need you Jesus. We need you. We don't want to turn it into a ritual and too often. I turn my devotions into a ritual. Too often I focus on the reading side because that's kind of my natural bent and I don't give enough attention to prayer and some of you are just the opposite. You're like, why don't need the Bible cuz I got prayer here's what I would encourage you. If you want to be devoted to prayer be devoted to the word if you want to be devoted to the word be devoted to prayer. The two feet each other and author. I came across a quote this week by an author. He said people ask me what's more important prayer Bible reading? I just ask them. What's more important breathing in breathing out?
We both but we ought always to pray. And then it's interesting just isn't to say we ought always to pray as we ought not to lose hearts. We are not to lose heart rate. He's just walk through the whole end times discussion. They have a great chance of losing heart Jesus as you're going to be persecuted. I don't want to do it. Jesus don't lose heart. Pray, always don't lose Heart Church. Pray, always don't lose heart. What is it look like to lose heart. It's really to cease to be devoted to Christ. It's to cease to do these things that he's asked us to do to lose heart is to say hey, we were doing the things that you said to do, but now we're going to stop doing them. Why because sometimes it gets hard. Sometimes we doubt right? There's two reasons there a lot of reasons, but the two main reasons I want to look at this morning weed out. or apathetic we lose heart when we doubt now doubt. What what is doubt? It is a natural consequence of believing world-changing ideas.
Doubt is natural to doubt your faith. Is natural because the world is screaming at you. Don't follow God don't follow God. Don't follow God. Don't follow God don't follow God. Doubt will come you're believing earth-shattering realities. You're believing that God himself spoke the universe into being your believing that we can be reunited with him through the death of a Jewish Carpenter 2000 years ago. You are believing incredible things. Do not be surprised when you doubt however do not let that doubt stop you. The beautiful thing about God is he is the God of all truth if you have doubt and you have honest questions, ask them seek truth. You will find it.
Don't use that as an excuse to not do what Jesus said though. Doubt drives us to prayerlessness. It drives us to not trust Christ. Here's the thing though. All of your doubts has an answer. You look through the Bible. You can find the answers. You look to the people of God. You can find the answers.
But you have to be willing to continue don't lose heart keep praying. Don't lose heart doubt. Don't lose heart. The other thing that happens is we get apathetic. and frankly, this is where I think most American Christians are We get apathetic. What is apathy?
Laziness. It's not caring. It's recognizing these truths and yet not caring enough to act on them. It's saying hey my brother and sisters 245 million of them around the world are facing persecution, and I don't care and have to spend a few minutes asking God to give them sustenance in the midst of that. Yes, there are people dying for their faith, but I cannot be bothered to turn off Netflix long enough to think about that. Yes, there are people who are facing significant persecution and yet the most important thing for me to do right now is to yell at my Democrat neighbor about what an idiot he is.
Where are apathetic we don't care about the right things. We care too much about the wrong things. We're lazy if we care what means we have to do something. If we care about the things that God says you need prayer to face this you need prayer to face persecution you need prayer to conquer your sin, if we don't care, we're never going to try we're never going to pray. We're never going to ask God to help with that. Just a reality that has no bearing whatsoever on our lives. We've lost heart because we didn't care enough. GK Chesterton Who I would highly recommend all of you should read GK Chesterton said this in his book what is wrong with the world? He said the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It is been found difficult and left untried.
Too often we become apathetic or like oh, it just doesn't work. Doesn't do anything following. Jesus isn't making a difference in my life is not making a difference in the world around me. I'm just not going to do it. No, it's difficult to follow Jesus and you don't want to try that's apathy. Doubt and apathy these two things that fight against prayerfulness. Jesus says though don't lose heart. Don't let your doubts or your apathy weigh you down to the point where you stop praying. Jesus says we ought always to pray and not lose Heart Church. Pray. Don't lose heart.
Ask God to do things that only he can do.
Don't grow lazy. Don't let the concerns of this world Drive the things of the Kingdom from your heart. Pray. Don't lose heart.