Prayer as Confession, 22 January 2023

Prayer as Confession
40 Days of Prayer
2 Samuel 11; Matthew 6:12; Psalm 51:1-17

Series Big Idea:
We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: Confession is a vital, liberating component of prayer.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Cheery question, right?! You’re in good company. The book of Romans says,
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23, NLT)
Sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1 John 3:4; Rom. 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Rom. 6:12-17; 7:5-24). (Source: Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? All sin leads to death. All sin is harmful…to us and/or others. All sin is an offense against God. While any sin is enough to break the intended relationship between us and God, not all sins have equal consequences in this life. Going 61 miles an hour in a 60 will not have the same impact on our lives as going 100 miles an hour and crashing into a church nursery!
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Whatever it is, you’re in good company.
Jacob was a cheater.
Peter had a temper and denied Jesus.
Noah got drunk.
Jonah ran from God.
Paul was responsible for murder.
Miriam was a gossip.
Martha was a worrier.
Samson was a womanizer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
But one of the greatest figures in human history was involved in lust, likely rape, adultery, fathering a child out of wedlock, getting someone drunk, lying, and pre-meditated murder…in one story…and was still forgiven. His name: King David.
The story is epic.
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1, NLT)
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. 5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:2-5, NLT)
This is the second time we’re told David stayed behind in Jerusalem…and plans a cover-up.
Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. 8 Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. 9 But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. (2 Samuel 11:6-9, NLT)
When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?” (2 Samuel 11:10, NLT)
Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.” (2 Samuel 11:11, NLT)
 “Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. (2 Samuel 11:12-13, NLT)
So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. (2 Samuel 11:14-17, NLT)
Lust, likely rape, adultery, fathering a child out of wedlock, getting someone drunk, lying, and pre-meditated murder. What follows—after a confrontation by Nathan the prophet—is confession…and forgiveness.
Have mercy on me, O God,
                        according to your unfailing love;
            according to your great compassion
                        blot out my transgressions.
2          Wash away all my iniquity
                        and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2, NIV)
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Imagine it is blotted out. Imagine God washes it away. Imagine He no longer even knows what you’re talking about! That’s what King David was seeking. That’s what we all desire, right?
The king (eventually) acknowledged his sin. He confessed it. He came clean.
Do you find confession to be easy? Why or why not? I often find it easier to rationalize, to be defensive, to excuse my sins…it’s not that big of a deal…I didn’t kill anyone…people on TV do worse things…
But there’s freedom when we ‘fess up.
Confession is a vital, liberating component of prayer.
It’s the pathway to forgiveness . One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible says,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)
This is a conditional promise. If we confess. The psalmist offers a brilliant picture of that forgiveness.
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12, NIV)
Is that good news? It’s why Jesus came, died, and rose.
We all experience the guilt associated with our sins. The number one reason people feel guilty is…because they’re guilty! But there’s hope for the person who has surrendered their life to Jesus Christ, accepted the reality of his life, death, and resurrection. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
I could talk about this for hours! The reason the cross has become the symbol of our faith is because it represents both the incredible sacrifice of Jesus and the incredible hope for us. Hallelujah!
Confession is vital, but there’s more. We must repent, turn, change.
Have you ever heard a parent say to a child, “Say you’re sorry” and the child responded, “Sorry!”?
Have you ever had someone apologize to you for the same thing…over and over?
It’s easy to question the sincerity. “Sorry” is not a magic word. True reconciliation is rooted in authenticity and sincerity. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never do it again, but we must genuinely seek change. This is why we offer Celebrate Recovery on Wednesday nights. It’s usually not enough to try harder. We need help. We need support. We need prayer. We need others. We certainly need the power of God.
In Psalm 51, David doesn’t just say, “Sorry.” A few verses later he says,
10         Create in me a pure heart, O God,
                        and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11         Do not cast me from your presence
                        or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12         Restore to me the joy of your salvation
                        and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
He wants restoration. Our mission is “restoring God’s masterpieces.” He wants the relationship with God that was broken by sin to be mended. He doesn’t stop there. He is changed by forgiveness.
13         Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
                        so that sinners will turn back to you.
He wants others to confess and experience the joy of forgiveness. Good news needs to be shared! If you’ve been forgiven, let others know the same freedom and cleansing is available to them.
David offers praise and worship to God as a result of our forgiveness, and we should, too.
That’s all background for today’s scripture!!!
As we continue our 40 Days of Prayer series on what we call the LORD’s Prayer, out text for today simply says,
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, NIV)
Another translation says,
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12, NLT)
Debts. Sins. Trespasses. They can generally be used interchangeably.  This is a fascinating verse. We are to ask God to forgive us our sins, but there’s more. There’s an understanding—an assumption— that we have forgiven others. It’s as if Jesus is saying forgiveness is available, but don’t hoard it.
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:9, NIV)
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.
We’ve been forgiven in order to be able to forgive.
We have a role to play in forgiveness. It begins with confession, but it seems greater than that.
I’ve noticed when it comes to prayer, we often want God to do all of the work. We might pray, “Feed the hungry, LORD” and God says, “You feed the hungry!” We may pray, “LORD, help me ace the exam tomorrow” and He responds, “Did you study?!”
Some of you have bought this lie of what some call cheap grace. It goes something like this: pray this magical prayer and then do whatever you want for the rest of your life. That’s not following Jesus. That’s not true repentance, turning from your sin. That’s not sincere confession.
I am not suggesting we have to walk on eggshells or worry about our salvation, but I am saying the deeper life with Jesus is not passive. We are invited to participate, by loving God, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, by making disciples of all nations, by picking up our cross daily and following Jesus, …and by forgiving. We don’t earn forgiveness by forgiving, but if we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we will be ready to forgive others. One writer notes, “Forgiveness of others is proof that that disciple’s sins are forgiven and he or she possesses salvation.” (NIV Application Commentary) Jesus said,
Matt. 6:14    For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)
Wow! Someone said forgiveness is easy…until you have someone to forgive!
“But they don’t deserve to be forgiven.” True. Neither do you.
“But they hurt me.” True. Sin hurts.
“But I don’t have the power to forgive.” True. That’s why you need God and His forgiveness. You can’t give what you don’t have. Forgiven people forgive others.
One of Jesus’ best friends had a remarkable conversation with him.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV)
That doesn’t mean 490. Jesus meant for us to keep forgiving others as long as we want to be forgiven. The rest of Matthew 18 has more of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness.
So What?
The message of our text is simple, but not easy.
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12, NLT)
God is quick to forgive, but he wants us to confess, to repent and turn away from sin, and to pass on forgiveness to others. What do you need to do today? Maybe you need to confess, to come clean, to get right with God. Perhaps you’re sick of confessing the same thing over and over and it’s time to take some serious action, to go to Celebrate Recovery, to share your struggle with a friend, to receive prayer from our elders. Some of you simply need to forgive…yourself or others. Jesus died to make that possible. Forgiveness brings freedom.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Maybe it’s refusing to forgive someone. Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. They might not even know you’re bitter. Today’s the day to forgive and get free. It doesn’t necessarily mean to trust, nor does it mean to forget, but it means to pass on the forgiveness you’ve received to others.
Maybe the worst thing you’ve ever done is refusing to forgive yourself. Is God a liar?
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9, NLT)
We’ve been forgiven and, therefore, have the power to forgive others and ourselves. Hallelujah!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Prayer as Kingdom Partnership, 8 January 2023

Prayer as Kingdom Partnership
40 Days of Prayer
Matthew 6:10, Colossians 1:13-14; Romans 14:17
Series Big Idea: We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: King Jesus wants us to experience God’s Kingdom and share it with others.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word
kingdom? Maybe Disney or the animal kingdom or the United Kingdom or even Burger King! Unless we’re speaking of something historical or foreign, we don’t often think about a kingdom, yet it’s the English word used to describe what may be the primary subject of Jesus’ teachings…the Kingdom of God.
Today we begin week two of
40 Days of Prayer, a nationwide series with our global family, the Christian & Missionary Alliance. There are daily devotionals, weekly online gatherings, and our sermon series designed to get us on our knees as we begin 2023. If you’re paying attention, the series itself is a study of what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Last week Pastor Donald spoke on prayer as worship:
“ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, (Matthew 6:9, NIV)
Today’s text continues:
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NIV)
God’s Kingdom. What is it? Where is it? Few words have been more misunderstood among Christians than this word
One of my favorite professors, Scot McKnight, wrote a book on the subject entitled
Kingdom Conspiracy. In it, he notes these five elements to the meaning of kingdom in the Bible:
a kingdom (1) has a king who (2) rules both by way of redemption and governing, and this king rules (3) over a people [Israel, church] through the revelation of (4) the law [Torah, teachings of Jesus and the apostles], and this king rules (5) in a land. All five of these elements are needed to speak biblically about kingdom, and all five are needed to be a kingdom-mission church.
Many reduce
kingdom to only one or two elements, which is insufficient. Kingdom is ultimately a people, and that people is Israel expanded, the Church. The Kingdom of God is not a church building. It’s not a church service. It’s not merely a local congregation. When we speak of the Kingdom of God, we’re referring to the global people under the rule of King Jesus, the Holy Scriptures, and the land they inhabit.
Jesus used the word
kingdom well over 100 times. To a first-century Jew, “kingdom” always meant “Israel.” To us, it should mean…well, us! The capital-C Church. It’s more than just good deeds. It’s more than salvation. It’s about us, who we are, and what we do under the Lordship of King Jesus. Perhaps the greatest challenge in understanding the Kingdom is it is now and not yet. Jesus recognized this. In the first chapter of Mark’s gospel or “good news” biography of Jesus, he said
The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15, NLT)
King Jesus was on the scene.
One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?”
Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” (Luke 17:20-21, NLT)
The rule and reign of Jesus was present, and that included miracles, healings, signs, and wonders. These did not cease when Jesus ascended into heaven, but actually exploded onto the scene in Acts 2, the early Church. The entire book of Acts—and much of the New Testament—is filled with accounts of love winning over hate, life conquering death, health dominating disease, and truth prevailing over lies. My favorite definition of heaven is it’s where God is present. Hell is the one place God is absent. Never mind playing harps on clouds. Don’t focus on pitchforks and fire.
Heaven is where God is present.
Hell is where God is absent.
It’s interesting how often people speak of heaven and hell, though the words heaven and hell never occur together in the Bible, though heaven and earth are often together. Regardless, heaven is where God is present, hell is where God is absent, and that’s really all you need to know…except that we experience aspects of both today. We see people who have rejected God and live as if He is absent…hoping He is absent. Some day they’ll be in for a rude awakening, but C.S. Lewis famously said, “All that are in hell choose it.” Keep God out of your life now, He’ll honor that decision for eternity. It’s your choice.
But let’s shift toward heaven for a moment, the spaces where God is present, or particularly visible. When Jesus said to pray
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NIV)
He’s saying to welcome God, submit to the LORD, live under the rule and reign of King Jesus, and seek moments where heaven kisses earth.
Family, this still happens today. I’ve seen God heal the sick, restore broken relationships, provide in times of desperation, and transform lives from darkness to light. If it weren’t for such God-things, I’d quit my job and go drive a brown truck for UPS or something!
For he has rescued us from the kindom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. (Colossians 1:13-14, NLT)
The kingdom of God includes salvation, but it’s so much more than just praying a prayer. It’s the ultimate alternative lifestyle!
Unfortunately, many so-called Christians live dull, lifeless, faithless lives without experiencing the power of God through the Holy Spirit. It’s just religion. The writer or Romans, in contrast, said,
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17, NLT)
Some have taken the other extreme and had phony encounters, but kingdom people should be seeking the experiencing the power of God…not simply for our pleasure, but the benefit of others.
Personally, I want more of God. Is anyone with me? Maybe my new year’s resolution is summarized in an old song that said, “More love, more power, more of You in my life.” There are moments when the kingdom of God is visible now, and it’s a wonderful thing.
The late Dallas Willard said,
“Discipleship is learning how to live in heaven before you die.” I love that. Some of you have been taught to just tolerate this life, but Jesus said to
Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33, NLT)
In doing so, we will be doing life with God, living in the Kingdom of God, experiencing the fruit of godly choices, and knowing the abundant life Jesus promised his followers. It does not mean life will be easy and happy-happy-happy, but you will find peace, contentment, and joy.
If we’re honest, the problem isn’t God, it’s us. No matter how holy or mature, righteous, or religious, we all mess up…a lot! All of the problems in our world are the result of sin…ours or someone else’s. I often pray,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NIV)
…but then I sometimes want it my way. My will. Sometimes He allows it, which leads to…regret.
I said the kingdom of God is now and not yet. We experience the rule and reign of God from time to time, but the earth is not fully submitted to the lordship of King Jesus. That’s obvious. In chapter 19, Dr. Luke records,
The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. (Luke 19:11, NLT)
We experience moments of the Kingdom of God now, but someday it will be all we know. John records in Revelation,
I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:3-4, NLT)
That’s what we have to look forward to…but we can seek and experience it now, too. The now and the not yet. It’s a tension. We are called to be light in our dark world. We are on a mission from God to participate in His kingdom now, bringing faith, hope, and love to our friends, family, neighbors, and even enemies. The Church is to offer a sneak preview of the kingdom to the lost world. We are not to be known for our rules, our politics, or our condemnation, but rather our love, our joy, our peace.
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, NIV)
The kingdom is God in action. The Church is God in action. You can’t see the wind, but you can see it’s activity. People can’t see God, but they can see Him at work in and through us. Right?!
To put things into historical context, many have viewed reality as a play with multiple acts. If you’ve ever been to a multi-act play, you know each act is different, but each fits the greater story. If it’s a play about the Civil War, you wouldn’t expect to have Lebron James in a scene or spaceships on stage! There are a few different outlines, but consider this as one example of the biblical story:

I.         Act 1: Creation and the Fall
God creates a magnificent world for us to enjoy, and then sin ruins it.

II.         Act 2: Israel
I mentioned this is what first-century Jews knew of kingdom, God leading his people through Moses, Joshua, King David, and others. The Psalms and the Old Testament record Act 2.

III.         Act 3: Jesus Brings Us into the Kingdom
King Jesus makes his first appearance on our planet, showing us what it means to be human while accomplishing his mission of seeking and saving the lost through his death

IV. Act 4: The Church

The Holy Spirit arrives fully in Acts 2, guiding those in the Kingdom to become like Jesus and live out God’s Kingdom on earth…now!
Lord, let Your Kingdom come on earth! Now!
The Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 give us a vision for God’s Kingdom on earth.
Matt. 5:3    “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
                         for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4          Blessed are those who mourn,
                         for they will be comforted.
5          Blessed are the meek,
                         for they will inherit the earth.
6          Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
                         for they will be filled.
7          Blessed are the merciful,
                         for they will be shown mercy.
8          Blessed are the pure in heart,
                         for they will see God.
9          Blessed are the peacemakers,
                         for they will be called children of God.
10         Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
                         for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s pray that God’s Kingdom is evident in our lives, that people see God in action through us. I pray that our lives are so different, so attractive, that people want to join our family, they want to taste the Kingdom, they want to follow King Jesus.

IV.         Act 5: Completed Redemption
This is the reward for following Jesus, the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom, the new heaven and a new earth.
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. 10  And they were shouting with a great roar,
            “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
                        and from the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10, NLT)
But it all begins now. This week. This month. This year. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Will you submit to the lordship of King Jesus? Will you seek first his kingdom? Will you pray for his will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven? Will you surrender your time, talents, and treasures to him? When people pray, they usually tell God what they want Him to do. Jesus taught us to pray, LORD…

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:10, NIV)

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library