Joining in with Intercession

Joining in with Intercession

What I Learned Last Sunday

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. – 1 John 5:16-17

If you happen to be reading “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund like I am, the message from Pastor Mike this past Sunday revealed one more layer in the kind heart of our Savior to deliver us from sin. Here he enlists the aid of our brothers and sisters that see (our stumbling), to ask for life on our behalf.

Jesus has already completed his work at the cross, but he hasn’t ceased in his efforts toward our holiness. He gave us his word and sent his spirit to keep us from sin. He lives forever to intercede on our behalf and if we do sin, he advocates for us. If all that wasn’t enough, he commands us to see the transgressions of one another and to ask for deliverance. He follows the command with a promise that he will answer and give life or victory over sin in response to those prayers.

A feedlot pen rider checks the cattle for sickness every day. Some calves, instead of presenting themselves as sick and in need of help, will instead hide their symptoms and attempt to blend in with the herd to not be seen. Perhaps they don’t trust the pen rider, or maybe they don’t believe the medicine will work, or maybe they don’t think they are really that sick. Whatever the reason, if they aren’t seen, they can’t be helped.

So often, when we begin to be ensnared by sin, we withdraw or hide the symptoms from our spiritual family. Perhaps we don’t believe Jesus will receive us, perhaps we don’t trust the power of prayer to deliver us, or perhaps we just don’t want to be vulnerable before our brothers and sisters. Regardless, they can’t ask for what they can’t see, and we deprive ourselves of the power and the promise for deliverance that is in this passage.

Jesus Christ came to save sinners and see them all the way to holiness and glory. It’s what he does. It is his passion. He intercedes and he has invited – no, commanded – us to join him in that work. What an honor to be part of his mission. What an enemy sin is with its power to deceive and enslave. But what a weapon prayer is! “Ask, and God Will Give Life!”

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Poor Widow vs. Rich Young Ruler

Word in Season

A group of us have been studying Mark’s gospel, preparing to teach it this Fall. This week we come to Chapter 12 and the well-known story of the poor widow who put two small copper coins into the temple treasury. The story is familiar and yet it still shocks us. We expect Jesus to gently stop the poor old woman by saying something like, “Trust me dear, you need this more than they do.”  After all, the spiritual leaders of the day are corrupt. Jesus had just confronted them for turning the temple into a den of robbers. We can’t think of any justifiable, responsible reason for this poor widow to give her entire livelihood, to the temple treasury. We’re surprised that Jesus accepts it and bothered that he holds her actions up as commendable.

On the surface this looks like a fulfillment of what Jesus says in Mark 12:38-40 “Beware the scribes…who devour widows’ houses…”. But this is not and cannot be reduced to just a financial transaction. Instead, this is an act of worship. This woman is putting legs to the spiritual truth that must already be well rehearsed in her mind and heart. She is, in effect, living out what she already knows to be true and that is: “Lord, I have become entirely your responsibility.”  “Lord, you are my rock and my provider.”  “Lord my faith and trust are in you alone.”

What a wonderful example of faith! What an appropriate act of worship! What a clear illustration of salvation!  Still, we have objections. This seems extreme; surely God is more practical about these matters. He doesn’t want me to sell everything and give to the poor and follow him, right?

For the rich young ruler in Mark 10 that is exactly what Jesus required. “One thing you lack; go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21) Unlike the poor widow, the young man was hanging on to his “stuff” so tightly that he could not be free to follow Christ. His wealth prevented him from trusting Christ, it prevented him from worshiping Christ, and it prevented him from being saved.

One question that we have started to ask ourselves at our Tuesday night Bible study is, “What is it, right now, that is preventing me from going with God?” For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth. For the poor widow, it was nothing, she was all in. The young man went away sad, the poor widow went away saved.

Living out truth in sacrificial worship is so good for us. It brings clarity and strengthens our faith and resolve. Our actions preach the gospel to our souls in ways that mere words never can. Our actions preach the gospel to those watching in ways that mere words never can. So, by faith let’s give generously and sacrificially, even when it doesn’t make sense. Let’s testify by our actions the truths we profess in the gospel.  Let’s joyfully meet pressing needs by faith knowing “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19).

“That in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”  – 2 Corinthians 8:2-5