One of the biggest forms of idolatry today is faith! I bet that caught your attention. Let me explain what I mean by that. If you pay attention during the election season you will have heard the phrase, “He is a man of faith.” In more religious circles you have perhaps heard or said, “I am saved by faith.” In our own Lutheran circles we are known as the Church of the SOLAs and many people can usually tell you what two of the SOLAs are, sola fide (faith alone) and sola scriptura (scripture alone). Yet there is something missing if those are the only two that you know.
When Martin Luther attempted to reform the church one of his big points was that it is through faith or better understood in our present day English, a trust, in God’s divine mercy which was given because of what Christ had accomplished by which people are saved. Faith is not a work that is done on the part of the individual, and grace is not something that was given to empower individuals to work their way to God. It is the trust in God’s divine grace given because of the work of Christ that restores us to God (see Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:1-2, Galatians 2:15-21).
This brings us back to the original point. You are not saved by the act of sincere belief, yet that is what the world tells you. Satan has a long track record of taking what is good and true and slightly twisting it so that it retains much of what it looks like while losing all of its truth. Satan has done that with faith. Today faith has become one of the biggest forms of idolatry in our culture. Just like in the Garden when Satan asked Eve, “Did God actually say You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” God did not say that! He did say that they should not eat from one of the trees in the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan twisted the truth of God and began his deceptive work. The goal of Satan was not for Eve to believe his first lie. She was well aware that she could eat the fruit of the Garden. Satan had accomplished his goal though, because how does Eve respond? She doesn’t say yes God said that. She says, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” The problem is that God didn’t say that they could not touch it. Satan has presented a lie not so that Eve believes the lie, but so that she no longer believes the truth. Then she begins to question the truth and ends up being deceived completely by another lie.
Today Satan has used lies to take our focus off of the key aspect of faith and that is the object of our faith, JESUS CHRIST!!! If the object of your faith is in anything other than Jesus Christ and what He has accomplished on your behalf you have been deceived and remain dead in your sin. It doesn’t matter if you are a sincere man or woman of faith if that faith is put in yourself, Allah, Baal, or any perversion of the True God (see Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, and many church bodies that once actually had biblical truths but have now abandoned them).
Faith does you no good if your faith is in anything other than Jesus Christ. You might say to yourself of course that is what I believe yet our actions don’t always reflect that. We get worn down by the world and the lies of Satan and think well maybe God didn’t really say that the only way to Him is through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6). Do not let faith become an object of worship. Do not let faith become the object of your faith. Let your faith be in Christ and in nothing else.
Grace mercy and peace to your form God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This Lent we are going to be taking time in our midweek services to look at the topic of prayer and specifically we are going to look at the Lord’s Prayer. My hope is that as we look at the Lord’s Prayer you will have a deeper appreciation for the wonderful gift that our Lord has given in the words.
The first thing that I want to briefly touch on is the topic of prayer as Christian people. There are many different questions about prayer that I have heard. One that I think many people deal with is the idea that we honestly believe that God is in complete control, so our minds think why should I pray if God has everything under control already? Or what good are my prayers going to do if God already knows what is going to happen or what my prayer is going to be? These are often times the thoughts that come out of our own attempts to understand the world and what God is doing apart from His word.
When we look at God’s word we can see three important points about prayer. The first point is that we are commanded to pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Romans 12:12 (ESV) 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Colossians 4:2 (ESV) 2 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV) First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Those are four examples and the list could go on for some time with James 1:6, 1 Peter 4:8, Jude 20, and Luke 18:1; 21:36. It should be clear to us from the amount of directives to God’s people and descriptions of God’s people that prayer is a very important thing. Prayer is not something that we can just set aside because we don’t value it. Prayer is clearly commanded by God. If that was the only thing that we had in scripture about prayer it would be enough for us to do it because God said we should, but that is not how God works. He does not simply give us things to do for the sake of doing them.
God has not only commanded us to pray, but has promised to hear our prayers. Matthew 7:7–10 (ESV) 7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? Psalm 50:15 (ESV) 15 and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Again we see clearly in God’s word the reality of prayer that not only does God command us to pray but he also promises to hear our prayer.
We see commands and promises in regards to prayer in scripture but what I again find so amazing about God and His graciousness to us as his people is that he never asks of anything of us that He himself does not provide for us. This is truly the foundation of the Christian faith. God asks for complete and perfect righteousness and holiness from each of us yet knowing we are unable to fulfill his request in the slightest way He provided his Son Jesus Christ to give us perfect righteousness and holiness. Prayer is no different. “We should be encouraged and drawn to pray because, in addition to this commandment and promise, God takes the initiative and puts into our mouths the very words and approach we are to use.” God has actually given us prayers to speak. This does not mean that we cannot simply pray about those specific things on our hearts, but it is to say we should deeply value the gift of the Lord’s Prayer.
If we have such a wonderful gift we should seek to understand what that gift is and so the goal over the next few weeks will to have a better understanding of what we are praying for when we pray the words that have been given to us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we begin to better understand the Lord’s Prayer we will hopefully have a better understanding of God, our relationship with him and the prayers that we speak to him.
“Our Father who art in heaven.” This is the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, but what should be note is the relationship that is being acknowledged. This is obvious, but important enough to say, when we pray we address who we are praying to. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we are speaking to our heavenly Father. We should also note who the original speaker of this prayer was and that is our Savior but also Brother Jesus Christ. Because we are connected to Christ through faith in Him we can now pray to Christ’s Father who is also our Father. Who is Christ’s Father well He is the one who spoke the world into existence. He is the one who parted the Red Sea. He is the one who has promised to hear our prayers and care about what we ask of Him.
“Hollowed be thy name” We don’t talk like this in any other part of our lives which is fine, but we need to make sure that we still know what these words mean when we are praying them. We are asking that God’s Name be kept holy. The next natural question is what does that mean? What does it mean to keep God’s name holy? The first petition is really a pray to God to help us keep the second commandment that we do not misuse the name of God. When we hear that we need to get past a 2nd grade understanding of the 2nd commandment. Yes don’t use God’s name as a curse word and for some that is something that needs to be repented of and worked on to amend, but the second commandment is so much more than that. The prayer of the first petition is that we would be concerned with the Word of God. It means that we be concerned with what we are ingesting spiritually because what we ingest through our hearing, watching, and reading actually has real consequences as to our spiritual lives. Just like when I eat bad food, bad results are going to follow. When I ingest bad spiritual food which is anything contrary to the word of God it is going to have bad results. When we ingest no spiritual food which is in line with God’s word it is going to have bad consequences.
The first petition is also a request to help us live according to God’s word which is not always an easy thing to do. Whether you like it or not and whether it is fair or not the actions of Christians are what are seen by the world and judged by the world. This is a pray to help us live in a way that gives glory to God and to avoid actions that give others perceived cause to reject God and blasphemy his name. We know that none of us walks a perfect life and to make that confession would be actually to break the second commandment as perfection this side of eternity is counter to the word of God. Because of this we continue to ask that God would forgive each of us and strengthen us to walk in his holy way that all those around us might seek to glorify God. Matthew 5:16 (ESV) 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. We pray that God’s name be kept holy among us. Amen.
 LC III:22